Sheffield United: Sociable Coutts on the Working Men’s Club

Paul Coutts says Sheffield United is a great place to work and play � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
Paul Coutts says Sheffield United is a great place to work and play � copyright : Blades Sports Photography

Some call it the Sheffield United Social Club, writes James Shield. Others, The Recreation Room.

But Paul Coutts, Bramall Lane’s amiable Aberdonian, isn’t really bothered about nicknames or labels.

Instead, surveying the pool tables and dartboards which adorn the Redtooth Academy’s newly refurbished players’ lounge, he simply describes it as the place where an indestructible team spirit was born.

“This place is brilliant,” Coutts said. “We all like hanging around and spending time with each other after training.

“If you get a good group of lads together then, in my experience, you’re much more likely to get good results.”

Nigel Clough was responsible for commissioning the overhaul soon after taking charge in October 2013, using funds generated by the club’s appearance in the semi-finals of last season’s FA Cup to transform a room previously boasting all the charm of a chemical weapons complex into something where members of his squad, and staff for that matter, would want to stay.

According to Coutts, who worked for the United manager at his previous club Derby County, revealed there is method behind the games, soft furnishings and modern sofas.

“The gaffer has always been massive on the spirit of the boys and making sure there’s a good sense of togetherness,” he told The Star earlier this week. “Because that’s what gets you points on a Saturday.

“This place is brilliant and nobody is ever in a rush to go home.

“We all prefer staying here and taking money off (coach) Martin Taylor. We beat him at whatever we play and he’s better than win bonus.

“When you sit in here and knock about with the boys, you can feel the sense of togetherness. There’s a real cohesion which, otherwise, might not be there.

“We had it at Derby. Look how well they’re doing now and that squad was basically put together by the gaffer here.”

While County continue their push for promotion from the Championship, United head to Barnsley tomorrow hoping to take another step towards hauling themselves out of League One. Fifth in the table, two places and five points above Lee Johnson’s side, for Coutts the fixture also represents another important mark on his learning curve.

“When you sign for a new club, it always takes a bit of time to settle,” the midfielder, who made 67 appearances at the iPro Stadium before moving to Bramall Lane 10 weeks ago, said. “I’d been injured for a while before coming in as well so I’d not had much football. I’ve been a little bit leggy at times towards the end of games because of that but it’s getting better all the time.”

“You need to get to know the runs the boys make and the positions they like to take up,” Coutts added. “Obviously I’ve played with Steve (Davies) before. The same with Bray (John Brayford) and Kieron Freeman who were also at Derby.

But there are a few I haven’t like Matty (Done). When things are going well it looks instinctive but, really, it isn’t. It’s just because you know what a team mate likes to do inside out.”

Coutts, aged 26, progressed through the ranks at Aberdeen before being released, bizarrely given that he measures six foot tall, for being too small. Cove Rangers stepped into the breach before he arrived at County via Peterborough and Preston North End. Coutts is still a regular visitor to Pittodrie.

“I always go when I’m back home. It’s always freezing, it’s probably the coldest place on earth. I watch from the south stand, it’s open and absolutely baltic but it’s still good to go.

“My favourite player growing-up was probably Eoin Jess. But there were a few good players - the legend that is Jim Leighton and Robbie Winters - back then.

“I missed out on all the glory years under Sir Alex Ferguson but, because of what he did for the club, I’ve always followed Manchester United too. Just because of that.”

United make the short journey to Oakwell having won two and drawn two of their last five outings.

“There’s definitely the capacity for us to keep on improving,” Coutts said. “I think, for the reasons I’ve mentioned, we can get stronger and stronger as the season goes on and, fingers crossed, that stands us in good stead.”

Twitter: @JamesShield1

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