James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Balancing cup ties and transfer windows

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Their away record makes for pretty miserable reading. Unless you are a member of Nigel Clough’s first team squad of course.

But, make no mistake, despite losing nine of their 14 matches on the road this term, Fulham will enter Sunday’s FA Cup fourth round tie as pretty strong favourites.

The gulf, irrespective of Sheffield United’s exploits at Villa Park three weeks ago, between top-flight and third-tier competition should not be under-estimated as Paul Peschisolido, who represented both clubs during a 20 year long career, outlines on these pages.

Nevertheless, as that 2-1 victory over Paul Lambert’s side proved, there are things you can do to bridge the gap. Not on a regular basis, granted, but definitely in these one-off games.

United deserved to progress. The scoreline was no fluke, as Clough will doubtless remind his team moments before they leave the sanctuary of their dressing room in just over 48 hours time.

To give themselves the best possible chance of claiming another coveted scalp, United must gnaw away at Fulham’s confidence. Puncture the brittle egos of a club which travels north tomorrow having conceded 33 goals away from home and 23 in its last nine games.

Take the fight to them in exactly the same way they did Villa rather that attempt to stifle and frustrate. Given the way the season has unfolded, United owe it to themselves and also their support.

Which brings me neatly to transfer window where I’ve received plenty of correspondence expressing concerns Clough has focused his efforts this month primarily on brokering loans rather than permanent deals.

And thank *@$* for that. Unless players are viewed as long-term investments, like Stefan Scougall and John Brayford, why on earth should commit themselves to anything permanent when their League One status remains in doubt?

Or, to be completely blunt, recruit from a list of potential purchases unlikely to contain any names with serious aspirations of reaching the Championship next term? The ones, inevitably, most managers would prefer to sign and which, hopefully, can be swayed during the summer months.

As harsh as it sounds, United should forget about scoring PR and popularity points. Just concentrate on doing the right thing.

Recruiting folk they need rather than ones some commentators want.