James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Specials tasks for special teams?

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My love affair with North American sport is an open secret among media colleagues.

There’s nothing I like better, spring summer or fall, than cracking open an ice cold Bud before pitching a few split-finger fastballs in the crib’s backyard. Perhaps, after another trip to the cooler, even the odd slurve.

NBA, NLL and even NASCAR. Why, I just can’t get enough.

This Damascene conversion can, strangely enough, be traced back to the time when a column criticising the NFL generated more email traffic than a BOGOF offer on the Chevrolet website. The vast majority of which wasn’t wishing Yours truly a happy Thanksgiving.

So, in the spirit of love and respect towards all things gridiron, I’m going to propose a radical change to the way football clubs, and Sheffield United in particular, go about their business. Suggest that Nigel Clough, an avid follower of the Tampa Rays, introduces a special team. One dedicated to helping Bramall Lane’s squad defend and take free-kicks.

It could prove cost effective given the fact that United have conceded nine times, either directly or indirectly, from dead ball situations this year. Especially when you consider matches in the third tier are becoming tighter with a marked downward trend on the differential between the average number of goals scored by home and away teams (0.09) compared to (0.26) last.

Joking aside, with the margins for error seemingly becoming slimmer by the season, I wonder how many managers privately decide that, come what may, they will include a set-piece specialist in their starting elevens? Not just a penalty-taker but someone capable of delivering a perfectly flighted corner or beating a positioned wall.

Jose Baxter is pretty good at doing so. But Ben Davies is even better. Should a place always be found for him in the side? Likewise, albeit more destructive reasons, Terry Kennedy who, when fit, has shown himself to be an aggressive and effective header of the ball?

I’m not sure whether this is a good idea or absolute baloney. But, partners, I’d be interested to discover your thoughts. By Pony Express, not Facebook or Twitter, of course.

Twitter: @JamesShield1

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