It’s always interesting, I reckon, to get a first look in a new season at our local teams.
Puts a bit of perspective on things particularly when you’ve been listening to their followers or reading about them. But you can’t beat seeing them for yourself.
Having seen the rest (Chesterfield apart), it was time to clap eyes on the Blades, my only other opportunity (v Notts County) having been thwarted by the 100th birthday party of my beloved Aunty who outdid anything the Blades could have done that night when she went on stage, read out several pages of thankyous etc., and even ad-libbed and joked along the way.
So, off to the New York Stadium last week armed with the words of Blades followers about their team, how they were playing and their style of play.
Yes, the style of play. So, David Weir has set them up to play a particular, patient way, starting it at the back. Fine. Seems to be what you might term the “modern” way. 4-2-3-1 and all that. People encouraged to pass it not hoof it.
I went to Oakwell the other week and saw a Southampton side (basically their entire reserve team bar two) set up exactly as United were and playing in a similar fashion. They demolished Barnsley.
The difference, of course, was the players. Southampton’s were better than those last Saturday, certainly in offensive positions. And they were better, quicker in what they did, how they pressed, when not in possession. Interestingly (that word again) the central defenders weren’t as good in the air as Maguire and Collins but that’s another story.
The Weir way is commendable but looks as if it will take time. His short cuts must surely involve having better players in certain areas. Clearly it’s a work in progress. But if the artist isn’t good enough, there won’t be a masterpiece at the end of it.
And crumble like they did in the second half, lacking fight and bottle, then there’ll be more defeats like that. And that will be a big worry. There’s more to it than passing.
The philosophy is commendable. He clearly wants a certain way of playing. It’s a patient way but needs patience to watch it. But as someone insisted, if that ball doesn’t go in the penalty area there won’t be a goal.
In a week when our international players have been criticised, again, for passing inadequacies and failure to retain possession, it’s not easy for League One players to be excellent at it.
It can be done. But it takes time. If you’ve got it. And patience. Good results help. And good players!