14 things we learned after Sheffield United's season came to a close

A picture to sum up a season
A picture to sum up a season
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A summer of positivity with a new manager, a hammering on the season's kick-off, a couple of glimmers of hope and an abject defeat as the curtain came down on 2015/16.

That effectively sums up Sheffield United's League One campaign, but here are 14 things we learned from a forgettable year at Bramall Lane.

Nigel Adkins in typically cheery mood

Nigel Adkins in typically cheery mood

Looking on the bright side isn't always the best way

The beaming, glass-half-full demeanour of Nigel Adkins is admirable and no one should really be chastised for having a sunny outlook on life, however, there are times when that manner doesn't fit in with the prevailing mood. When Adkins took over he said he recognised that if the Blades' working-class fanbase saw players giving their all for the cause, they'd be appreciative. He was right. He should have also realised they can't be soft-soaped into believing all is rosy when it's clearly not. At times this season the manager concentrated on the positives when performances suggested his team needed a verbal kick up the a**e. He could well have been tearing strips off them in the changing room but the supporters won't see that. Admittedly, Adkins' predecessor, Nigel Clough, often went too far on that score but there's a happy medium to be found.

Imagine a team without Billy Sharp

The number of times United fans thanked their god for Billy Sharp this season is almost incalculable. Unsurprisingly he will have swept the board at various Player of the Year Awards and he deserves every accolade because he's been superb. It hasn't just been the goals either. Sharp doesn't stop running; constantly hassling and harrying, winning the ball back and creating chances for himself and others. In his third spell at Bramall Lane, the boyhood Blade had admitted he appreciates what it means to be playing for his club now and he's certainly appreciated in the stands

Billy Sharp and Che Adams

Billy Sharp and Che Adams

Sharp's partnership with Che Adams can and will be vital next season

It took a little while to get going - mostly because Che Adams found himself in and out of the team for various, well-documented reasons. However, when those creases were ironed out of the teenager the partnership between Adams and Sharp was superb at times. There's a genuine chemistry there and 30-odd goals between them is a very good return under the circumstances and it represents about half of all of United's goals this season. If that carries on at the beginning of the next campaign, then there's cause for hope.

Best formation has been found, but it took too long

To give Adkins credit, he continued to try and find the perfect way of getting the best out of his players and he eventually discovered that - a 3-5-2 system that stymied the inexcusable concession of goals. By then though it was probably too late and with the team inevitably going to drop points the gap was too wide to make a real push for a play-off place. At least, though, it gives them something to work from for next season.

Blades fans have been incredibly loyal

Blades fans have been incredibly loyal

Long's a keeper

The season began terribly for George Long who suffered a nightmare on the opening day. However, the way he bounced back from that has been superb and the keeper has been one of the few stars of the season. Yes, he makes mistakes, but all goalkeepers do and unfortunately they're amplified by the fact they often lead to a goal. He's still young in goalkeeping terms and has a good ten years ahead of him. It should be hoped they're all at Bramall Lane.

The kids are more than alright

The Blades academy churns out immense talent and this season was no exception with an abundance of young players making first team appearances. More often than not, in a difficult campaign, they held their own and this experience will stand them in good stead. In a year of few positives, the emergence of the likes of Ben Whiteman and Dominic Calvert-Lewin offered belief that there is yet more to come from the production line.

Bramall Lane needs to be a fortress again

With no disrespect intended, teams like Shrewsbury, Bury and Colchester should be arriving on S2 feeling little more then trepidation. However they were three of far too many teams who came away from the Lane with a win. Some might point to the expectancy levels among fans having a negative impact on the players, but frankly if you can't cope with that you shouldn't be at the club. Bramall Lane needs, once again, to a venue of fear for opponents.

Chris Basham: 'Mr Dependable'

If Sharp was the leading man, then Chris Basham is up for the prize of 'best support'. No one really remembers what Basham's natural position is anymore because he seemingly plays everywhere, but no matter what area of the pitch he's placed, you know he'll give his all. Did anyone really have him pinned as a wing-back and to his credit, that's where he's excelled in the latter part of the season, in John Brayford's absence.

Brayford's a loss but we still haven't seen the best of him

There's no doubting United are a better team with John Brayford in the XI, but he still hasn't consistently shown the type of form which made him such a hero in that amazing loan spell a few seasons ago. The injury suffered at the tail end of last season is the big reason for that and now he's out again. Brayford needs a full pre-season and, then, there's little doubt he can rediscover the former glories.

Suffering from 'sins of the father'

To be fair to Adkins, he inherited a bloated squad filled with players of very little use. In this respect, Nigel Clough has a lot to answer for. To bring anyone in, the current manager had to get rid of a load more and to his credit he's managed to offload some of the excess baggage. A few of those went on loan, though, so there are decisions to be made in the summer and a clear-out will be necessary if he is to strengthen.

Signings have been average at best

As a caveat to the above, not many of the players Adkins did bring in can be considered a real success. Sharp is the undoubted stand-out but others e.g. Dean Hammond, Conor Sammon and Martyn Woolford have generally failed to offer the team the quality that was needed. David Edgar was good, Alex Baptiste excellent when he came in, but it was more miss than hit in the transfer market.

Changes needed at the top

The current partnership between Kevin McCabe and the Prince is obviously problematic. Not in the sense that it is fractious and it is clear that the interests of the club are high on the agenda for both parties. It's more a case of 'too many cooks' and exiled cooks at that. A more streamlined approach is required here. Jim Phipps' departure was as inevitable as it was necessary and what needs to happen now is the arrival of someone who knows football in this country and, more importantly, at this level.

Jose Baxter - time to get rid

He's almost been forgotten about, amid everything else, but on his day Jose Baxter is one of the most talented footballers in this division. In fact, if he'd put his mind to it, he could play at a much higher level. The problem is, if you are suspended for half the season for failing drugs tests, innocent or not, then you're no good to anyone.

Fans deserve better

Finally a word for the supporters. Yes, many of them can be the absolute antithesis of Nigel Adkins, but despite having precious little to cheer all season an average home gate of around 20,000 shows tremendous loyalty. As the setbacks keep coming, so do the fans. They deserve a lot better than what they have had to endure.

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