Sheffield United visit relegated Watford on the opening day of the 2022/23 Championship season, when Dwight Gayle and Scott Twine can be among five Blades signings to feature.
Paul Heckingbottom’s men will see in the new campaign at Vicarage Road on August 1 in a 20:00 kick-off. The Hornets are back in the second-tier, having finished 19th in the Premier League. Sheffield United then meet Millwall, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Blackburn.
The Blades will hope to go one better in the new campaign, having ended last season with defeat in the play-off semi-finals to Nottingham Forest. Steve Cooper’s side beat Sheffield United on penalties to head to Wembley, where they would edge Huddersfield Town 1-0.
Sheffield United had ended the regular term in fifth-place with a 13-point deficit to the top two positions. Fulham swept the second-tier title on 90 points, whilst Bournemouth would finish as runners-up on 88 to pip Huddersfield (82) and Forest (80) for the automatic place.
Now, Heckingbottom faces revamping his Bramall Lane ranks with former loanee Morgan Gibbs-White returning to Wolves. The Sun also report the Molineux natives want £25m for the Southampton and Forest target after he scored 12 and assisted 10 goals for the Blades.
Sheffield United could also face Watford on the opening day of the season without Sander Berge. Yorkshire Live report Leeds United are considering a move for the 24-year-old, but they may have to trigger a £35m release clause to take him from South to West Yorkshire.
So, with that in mind, what could Heckingbottom’s XI look like when Sheffield United face Watford on the road on the opening day of the new Championship season come August 1?
Wes Foderingham (GK): Sheffield United mainstay to face Watford on opening day
Wes Foderingham was a mainstay of the Sheffield United line-up last season and he should stay so next term, starting away to Watford on the opening day. The 31-year-old kept 18 clean sheets to 26 goals conceded over 32 regular season and one play-off tie in 2021/22.
Daniel Ballard (CB): Arsenal gem to make Blades debut on opening day vs Watford
Sheffield United are interested in signing Dan Ballard from Arsenal ahead of their opening day encounter with Watford, per Yorkshire Live. The Gunners are ready to sell the centre-back, per Goal, after an impressive 30 Championship games on loan at Millwall last season.
John Egan (CB): Sheffield United mainstay to face Watford on opening day
John Egan was another mainstay of the Sheffield United XI last season who should start on the opening day against Watford. The centre-half opened all 48 of the Blades’ second-tier fixtures last term, including in the play-off semi-finals, and helped to keep 20 clean sheets.
Ben Davies (CB): Heckingbottom keen to retain Liverpool loanee
Heckingbottom is keen to retain Ben Davies this year, after the centre-back spent last term on loan at Sheffield United. The Star noted the Blades boss was to debate a return with the 26-year-old before he returned to Liverpool, who the Liverpool Echo add are willing to sell.
Ben Osborn (RM): Injury to keep Jayden Bogle out of opening day vs Watford
Jayden Bogle will be Sheffield United’s first-choice on the right-flank next term, but is likely to miss the opening day clash at Watford. The 21-year-old is still recovering from the knee injury that ended his term in February, and should be replaced by Ben Osborn once again.
Scott Twine (CM): Sheffield United to rival Burnley for Gibbs-White successor
Heckingbottom seems to have identified MK Dons’ Scott Twine as a potential successor for Gibbs-White at Sheffield United. Yorkshire Live note the Blades are interested after the 22-year-old hit 20 goals and 13 assists last term, but Alan Nixon reports Burnley will bid £4m.
Oliver Norwood (CM): Northern Irishman to anchor Blades’ 22/23 engine room
Oliver Norwood will likely be the anchor of Sheffield United’s engine room on the opening day of the season against Watford. The 57-cap Northern Ireland star was a mainstay of the Blades’ plans last term as he amassed 49 games in all competitions, of which he started 45.
John Fleck (CM): Heckingbottom to ask Sheffield United man to fill Berge’s void
Heckingbottom could have to replace Berge amid interest from Leeds this year, but he can ask John Fleck to fill the Norwegian’s void. The Scot played 39 times in all competitions last season, and assisted Norwood to score the only goal to beat QPR 1-0 at home during April.
Crysencio Summerville (LM): Blades to rival Forest to loan Leeds gem
Sheffield United are rivalling Nottingham Forest to loan Crysencio Summerville from Leeds this summer, per The Athletic. The 20-year-old is keen to secure the senior game time that is not on offer at Elland Road after 232 minutes, and could well find more at Bramall Lane.
Rhian Brewster (ST): Sheffield United to welcome star back on opening day
Rhian Brewster is on course to recover from his hamstring injury in time to play in Sheffield United’s opening day meeting against Watford. The 22-year-old last played in January, just after he hit strong form with all three of his Championship goals over his last seven games.
Dwight Gayle (ST): Newcastle ace can make Sheffield United debut on opening day
Dwight Gayle could make his Sheffield United debut on the opening day against Watford. iNews report Heckingbottom and Middlesbrough are interested in the striker, who has 59 goals in 100 Championship career games, with Newcastle open to sending him out on loan.