VIDEO: Sheffield United boss Clough warns he will show no mercy over Christmas

Nigel Clough has threatened to wield the axe if his team fails to perform over the crucial Christmas period, writes James Shield.

And, warning there is no such thing as a guaranteed first-team place at Bramall Lane, the Sheffield United manager told The Star that below-par displays during Saturday’s visit to Fleetwood Town will be punished when coaching staff select their starting eleven for next week’s Capital One Cup quarter-final against Southampton.

Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough says he is always on the look-out for new players

Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough says he is always on the look-out for new players

“We are always looking for better players,” Clough said. “If we can find a better goalkeeper than Mark Howard, although I don’t think that we can in this league, then we’ll take a look.

“That is our job. To try and improve it all the way through.

“If you’re a player, you’ll be thinking ‘There might be a couple of people coming over January. If it’s in your place then that’s all the incentive you need.”

United are fifth in the League One table ahead of their fixture at Highbury and Clough added: “If you don’t perform, you don’t play (against Southampton) on Tuesday. With January coming up as well, I’d say it is even more important for players at the moment.”

Meanwhile, Clough has indicated that Brighton and Hove Albion are prepared to extend Chris O’Grady’s loan with United despite Sami Hyypia’s claim that he is unaware about the striker’s intentions.

O’Grady is scheduled to return south next month but Clough said: “We’d have done exactly the same in Brighton’s situation. Leave all the options open.

“There’s not many clubs who would commit at this stage until the end of the season and they’ve got a 24-hour recall after 28 days. But I think all parties are hoping it goes smoothly and that he’s with us until the summer.”

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Twitter: @JamesShield1