Sheffield United can turn around brutal season by signing lethal bargain striker in January

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The Blades are currently rooted to the foot of the Premier League after a difficult start to the 2023/24 season

There are some records that you absolutely would rather not have attributed to you. The longest attack of hiccups in recorded human history, for instance, belongs to an American man by the name of Charles Osbourne, who started with a bout of singulteses in 1922 and, unable to find a cure, did not stop again until one morning in February 1990. Or consider the case of Kively Papajohn, who spent six whole days involuntarily confined in the lift of her apartment building in Limassol, Cyprus after it broke down with her inside. She survived the hellish predicament by rationing fruit and bread from her shopping bag, and she even saw in the new year, 1988, trapped like a beetle in a stainless steel matchbox.

Then there is the Premier League’s record low points tally. Since 2008, the dubious honour has been held by Derby County, who finished that particular campaign with a total of just 11 points from 38 matches. The Rams won one game all season, and after taking six points from their first ten outings, would only amass five more from their next 28. The longer Sheffield United’s current ordeal staggers on, the more concerned they must be that they could threaten that stunning nadir.

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The Blades have taken just one point from their first eight fixtures this term, and at that rate of progress would take around five points over the course of an entire campaign. Now, of course, the likelihood of that happening is slim - perhaps even minimal - but the fact that United are treading these waters at all would suggest that change is needed, and quickly.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom. The Blades have endured a woeful start to their Premier League return, taking just one point from eight matches, Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom. The Blades have endured a woeful start to their Premier League return, taking just one point from eight matches,
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom. The Blades have endured a woeful start to their Premier League return, taking just one point from eight matches, | Getty Images

It can be tricky to know where exactly to prioritise first when matters across the board appear so grim, but as a general rule of thumb, goals keep teams in divisions. At the time of writing, only Bournemouth have scored on fewer occasions than the Blades this season, and the race for their in-house golden boot is a dead heat between Gustavo Hamer and the most prolific of marksmen, Own Goal. More damning still, Cameron Archer is the only out-and-out striker to have found the back of the net in the Premier League thus far.

If things continue in such a dire manner, perhaps then a new centre-forward should be high on United’s recruitment agenda in the January transfer window. And that brings us to Danny Ings.

To suggest the 31-year-old is struggling for opportunities at West Ham would be something of an understatement. With just 33 minutes of top flight football to his name this term, the former England international has very much been relegated to the role of walk-on extra. His cameos are as fleeting as they are blunted, and it is difficult to foresee a situation whereby the striker is able to force his way back into David Moyes’ plans - especially if the Hammers sign attacking reinforcements during the winter window.

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But by no means is Ings a spent force. This is a player who commanded a transfer fee of around £10 million just nine months ago, and who boasts a Premier League goal return of one strike every three matches. He is vastly experienced, an unerring finisher, and in desperate need of a fresh start to reboot a stagnating career. In short, he is exactly the kind of player Sheffield United - with their fledgling, faltering frontline - could do with right now.

Whether West Ham would be willing to sell would presumably depend on their own ability to strengthen in the final third. Whether they could be convinced into some kind of temporary agreement with a potential option-to-buy folded into it also remains to be seen. But the fact of the matter is that the Blades need sharpening, and they are not exactly blessed with a cavalcade of realistic targets.

Ings could provide that rarest of phenomena - a reliable goal threat that brings with it a modicum of hope. Because even when things look to be at their bleakest, there is always a chance that they can still turn themselves around. Just ask Charles Osbourne, or Kively Papajohn. But not Derby County.

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