Nigel Clough is fond of partnerships, writes James Shield.
The former Nottingham Forest, Liverpool and Manchester City centre-forward has surrounded himself with the same, select band of trusted lieutenants since entering the world of management.
Tactical briefings, both on and off the record, invariably include a section on the importance of forging them across the pitch.
So, as his Sheffield United side prepares to play its penultimate match of the 2014/15 League One season, Clough is delighted to report that another is developing within the South Yorkshire club’s squad. A double act which, given some commentators’ concerns about the firepower at his disposal, could prover the difference between Championship football and another campaign in the third tier.
“There is a nice balance in there with (Paul) Coutts and Jose (Baxter) having the ball and playing,” Clough said. “Jason makes his runs off Steve so that balance is nearly there.”
Holt and Davies, of course, are on loan at Bramall Lane from Heart of Midlothian and Blackpool respectively. Talks aimed at turning their temporary agreements into something more permanent have, according to sources, already taken place behind the scenes. Albeit at a preliminary level given the uncertainty about where fifth placed United will be competing next term.
Despite being comfortably positioned within the top six, Clough and his team have been criticised for adopting a supposedly conservative approach throughout the present campaign. It is a claim which privately riles the 49-year-old and, although there is undoubtedly significant room for improvement, is not entirely supported by fact. United average 1. 4 goals per game since his appointment 18 months ago and 1.44 this season. Only six clubs, in league competition, score more.
Nevertheless, a fresh attacking dynamic, would be a welcome addition to a side which has seen three of its number reach double figures since competition resumed in August. Holt has netted five times in his last seven appearances.
“It’s a great return,” Clough said. “And for a midfielder.”