Sheffield United: Holt has no fears about League One play-off push

Sheffield United midfielder Jason Holt during Saturday's win over South Yorkshire rivals Barnsley � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
Sheffield United midfielder Jason Holt during Saturday's win over South Yorkshire rivals Barnsley � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
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If, and it remains if, Sheffield United qualify for the League One play-offs then Jason Holt, their talented young midfielder, definitely won’t be afraid, writes James Shield.

In fact, being asked to plot a course towards the Championship via Wembley should prove a doddle for a player who already boasts appearances at Ibrox, Parkhead and Easter Road on his footballing CV.

“To play against the Old Firm and in Edinburgh derbies, well, they are just massive games,” Holt, on loan from Heart of Midlothian, said. “Nothing really scares you after that because of the atmosphere and intensity involved.

“They are huge occasions, not only the games themselves, but also the build up that goes with it through the week. “I’ve been fortunate to experience all of that at quite a young age and that should, hopefully, stand me in good stead.”

United, as manager Nigel Clough is quick to remind, have plenty of work to do before they hear London calling. This evening’s clash with Doncaster Rovers, another team harbouring genuine aspirations of promotion, threatens to be a particularly tense and nervous affair.

Paul Dickov’s side, beaten by Bradford City 24 hours before United’s victory at Barnsley, will move to within eight points of their neighbours if they prevail.

Holt, though, is seemingly devoid of nerves.

“Growing-up, you watch games like this on the television, games that really mean something, where there’s so much at stake, and dream of being involved in them.

“So, if you were bothered about the thought of actually going out there and doing it, when you do finally get the chance, for me that would be a bit strange.

“Pressure is good. Well, I think it is anyway. Because, if there’s pressure, then it usually means something is at stake.

“If there’s nothing riding on it then, more often than not, it’s because something has gone wrong.”

Holt made 70 appearances for the newly crowned Scottish Championship champions before moving south of the border three months ago. Clough, impressed by the timing of his runs from deep lying positions, has likened the 22-year-old to Frank Lampard.

But, as Holt told The Star, a former cult-hero at Tynecastle was responsible for shaping his style.

“There were a few Hearts lads I really looked-up to. Bruno Aguiar was the one though. He was the one that stood out for me because we played similar positions and he wasn’t the biggest either.

“I didn’t get a chance to actually meet him properly because, when Bruno was in the team, I was still coming through.

“But I did see him around the place quite a bit even though I was too young to get to know him.”

“I grew-up watching some great teams at Hearts and used to go to quite a few matches,” Holt continued. “Then my own football took over and so all that had to change. I was playing rather than supporting them.”

United could elect to change a winning team after Andy Garner, their first team coach, acknowledged it was “probably a mistake” not to “freshen things up a little” before last month’s loss to Crewe Alexandra. But Holt, having scored his third goal in as many games three days ago is expected to feature. Matt Done, Jose Baxter, Stefan Scougall and Michael Doyle are among those hoping for recalls.

Paul Dickov, the Rovers manager, could select Kyle Bennett and Nathan Tyson in his starting eleven.

But Holt insists that temperament, not tactics or personnel, will ultimately decide the course of the game.

“As players, you just need to ignore everything that goes with those and do your job.

“Because that’s what you’re paid to do. Play football.

“You can’t get wrapped-up in the atmosphere too much because that distracts you from your responsibility.

“That’s probably the biggest and most important lesson I learned from facing Hibernian and the Old Firm.”

Twitter: @JamesShield1

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