As far as manifestos go, it made pretty compelling reading.
Nigel Adkins, the Sheffield United manager, plans to spend this summer remodelling a squad bloated by years of chronic instability while, at the same time, delivering value for money to his paymasters at Bramall Lane.
“Everybody connected with this football club, be it the players, the management, the owners or the supporters, want exactly the same thing,” he said. “And that is for Sheffield United to be successful.
“I’m always looking to the future, looking to build. The past is in the past. It’s what happens now that’s most important and there’s lots of positive things, like the change of shape and reducing the size of the squad, going on. I think we’re beginning to see the benefits now.”
Producing a bit more bang for a lot less buck should not prove too difficult given United’s haphazard and, as a direct consequence, horrendously expensive recruitment drives in recent seasons. Plenty of players, over 40 Adkins estimated soon after taking charge, have found their way onto the club’s payroll. Far too few, until recently at least, appear capable of making over 30 appearances a season or producing the type of unerringly consistent displays required to win automatic promotion. Adkins and his staff began whittling down the numbers by allowing several, including Marc McNulty and Bob Harris, to leave South Yorkshire on loan although the 51-year-old has explicitly stated this does not necessarily mean they are surplus to requirements.
“We’ve still got a large group and you could say that’s taking-up a lot of the budget for next season,” Adkins said. “Attitude is a big thing with me. Standards and values. You don’t necessarily have to be the best player but you can still contribute. Sometimes, for example, someone might not be the best player in the world but they can make somebody else look a million dollars. It’s a bit like baking a cake. You need different ingredients, the right mix.”
Devising a coherent transfer strategy, something which proven beyond many of Adkins’ most recent predecessors as they sought to avoid the axe by producing quick-fire results, should be the former Southampton and Scunthorpe chief’s first task during the close season. Establishing some permanent structures, independent of Adkins and his coaching staff, the second. For a club of United’s stature and ambition, it is a sorry state of affairs when a manager arrives midway through a transfer window only to discover no scouting department exists. A fate which befell both Adkins and Nigel Clough; the man he replaced 10 months ago.
“It’s about passion, for me, at the end of the day,” Adkins said. “I can relate to that with the previous clubs I’ve been at. We won this division (at Scunthorpe) with probably one of the lowest budgets. But we were still able to make sure everything fell in place. Yes, there’s a frustration and that’s understandable but the first foundation is trust. You’ve got to be able to say how it is without things being taken the wrong way. Express an opinion and then build from there.”
“Let’s face it, this is the biggest club some of these lads will ever play for,” Adkins continued. “This is a big football club and that’s one of the reasons we came here. Sometimes it’s the management, the players, owners or supporters; everyone has an opinion. But we’ve got to gel everyone together. We’re not where we want to be but we are where we are.”
If any doubts still existed, they will be dispelled against Shrewsbury Town tonight. Greenhous Meadow, with its breeze blocked walls and wide open corners, is not the most hospitable of League One stadiums at the best of times. Nevermind a cold and windy April evening. Guaranteeing a positive outcome is impossible but given the surroundings and the fact that the 42nd match of United’s campaign is being painted as a dead-rubber, the performance will reveal much about the character of within their ranks. Not that it is a description Adkins, whose side are ninth in the League One table and six points behind the play-off positions, recognises having chastised one member of the media for suggesting as much yesterday.
“We aren’t giving up on anything,” Adkins, who side beat Chesterfield 3-0 last weekend, warned. “Nothing at all.”