The player we seemingly offloaded Zain Westbrooke in order to make room for, Ben Sheaf is more likely to compete for the deeper central midfield roles than further forward, where Westbrooke operated. A deep-lying metronomic passing midfielder, only one midfielder in League One last season attempted more passes than Ben Sheaf. The former Arsenal youngster tends to be the midfielder who collects the ball off the centre-backs and gets the team moving forward, but can contribute to creating and scoring chances himself. Having enjoyed a strong season last year on loan at Doncaster Rovers, the step up to the Championship is a natural progression for Ben Sheaf.
Using last season’s central midfield partnership as a comparison, Ben Sheaf is somewhere between a Liam Kelly-style anchor and a Liam Walsh-style conductor. While he may be a more natural replacement in the side for Liam Kelly, he could easily play alongside the club captain and play a creative role. If he is signed permanently, Sheaf is a player who could become a valuable asset to the club over the long-term. In the here and now, he strengthens the competition for places in central midfield and will run both Liam Kelly and Gustavo Hamer very close for a starting place in the side.
The concern with adding Ben Sheaf to the squad is he’s another young player with no experience of Championship football. If our experienced operators – namely, Liam Kelly and Kyle McFadzean – struggle to make the step up, it could leave the team desperately short of the nous required to guide a young team through the rigours of competition at this level and negatively affect their development by getting into a losing habit. However, the benefit of signing young and improving players like Sheaf is they can help the club grow over the long-term without having to pay the premium that comes with Championship experience. In a year’s time, Sheaf will have that Championship experience and we’ll have the ability to sign him for a fee of a player without that experience – a sensible move by the club.