Much as this column loathes the “we showed character” cliche, it was reassuring to hear Sheffield United’s manager highlight this quality after his side’s fightback for a 2-2 draw at Bradford City. Because the most common criticism from ex-Blades players you speak to is of a lack of it in the current team.
Not a lack of effort or desire, more a shortfall in personality and presence. In short, an absence of leadership, particularly at Bramall Lane where a tough mentality is required. But we could be talking any of many teams here, not just the one Nigel Adkins is trying to galvanise for another promotion attempt.
It’s called modern living. Talk to any academy coach – and I’ve spoken to several at various clubs – and they’ll complain privately of young players being mollycoddled because of the political correctness that prohibits the strict discipline of their own upbringing.
They’ll also tell you that youngsters are too often insular and introspective, too besotted with texts, tweets and computer games to communicate. And a lack of talkers on the field leads to a lack of leaders.
Throw in the absence of any competitive football between senior level and development squads and you have serious problems for the game to address in terms of honing talent to the hard school of first team fare. Especially as clubs are carrying way too many senior players – around 30 at the Lane, for instance.
You could add the lost art of defending to the list (United in common with many after shipping eight goals in three games), but that’s best left for another day.