When Dean Hammond describes Sheffield United’s final ten matches this season as “massive”, it’s easy to dismiss it as typical footballing hyperbole.
But a cursory glance at United’s remaining fixtures exaggerates the Leicester loanee’s point.
Eight sides seperate Nigel Adkins’ side and the automatic promotion places in League One and, between now and May 8, United play six of them - beginning with this afternoon’s tough trip to fifth-placed Millwall.
“Millwall is a tough game for us,” Adkins, who yesterday allowed Stefan Scougall to join Fleetwood Town on loan, said.
“But we’re looking forward to it. It’s important for us to not look too far ahead; yes, we have a lot of games left against sides above us in the league, but we can’t look any further ahead than the next game.
“They’re good games to play, and we should go into them with confidence and nothing to fear.”
Millwall, who won the corresponding fixture 2-1 at Bramall Lane back in October, endured a slow start to life in League One following relegation last season but will kick off this afternoon only six points off the automatic promotion places.
“Sometimes that happens when a team is relegated,” Adkins added.
“They have to readjust and, rightly, the expectation is always high. From Millwall’s point of view, they’re there on merit and will be looking to push on. We could have won the game earlier in the season, but we didn’t and we know they have threats.
“It’ll be a good game, a competitive game, and we’re looking forward to it.”
“We’re at the business end of the season now,” Adkins added.
“We’ve been here many times... it’s about holding your nerve and being consistent. There’s been a lot of change in the division lately and a lot of inconsistency, and a lot of teams will feel like they have an opportunity to make the play-offs and go up.
“There’ll be some interesting results along the way, between now and the end of the season.”
Adkins, who confirmed that Chris Basham and Florent Cuvelier are “good to go” against Neil Harris’ side, refused to be drawn on the long-term future of loanee midfielder Hammond.
The Leicester man is out of contract with the Premier League leaders at the end of the campaign and the Blades boss said: “Dean’s playing for us at the minute, and that’s all we can look at.
“But he’s the ultimate professional, isn’t he? He does a lot of things that perhaps go unseen and can help our young players coming through the system.
“It’s about the balance between young talent and experienced professionals... they’re so important at a football club because they set the standards.
“Dean is one who has been through the system and reached the very top... and is one who can perhaps show what it takes to get there, without being the best of players.
“Many other things are required and if you can apply yourself in the right way, you give yourself more of a chance.”
Hammond, 33, added: “We have ten games left now and every one of them is massive. We’re at the business end of the season now and had a good result last weekend against Oldham, now we have to build on that.
“We’re an attacking team; we start on the front foot and we know we’ll have a good chance in every game if we produce what we’re capable of.
“The youngsters here are at a fantastic football club, under a good manager and with good, experienced players in the team and in the squad. It’s as good a place as any for them to learn.”