James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Don’t let facts get in the way

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They are the bane of old school medical examinations and English football alike.

I’m talking about knee-jerk reactions. Probably the rolling news generation’s most tiresome characteristic. Part of the process which shortly, thanks to internet bores and other asinine reactionaries, will shortly ensure sensible planning and strategic thinking are dead.

Pick a club, any club, and you’ll find examples of how our thirst for a storyline, no matter how deluded or ridiculous, influences the narrative.

Louis Van Gaal loses his first match at Old Trafford? The Dutch master must be losing his touch.

Chelsea beat newly promoted Burnley? They’re clearly certain to be crowned champions.

And, continuing the theme, Nigel Clough will doubtless be accused of lacking any ambition if, despite making 11 new signings during the present window, he refuses to make at least one significant acquisition during the 24 hour circus otherwise known as transfer deadline day.

Speaking of Sheffield United, the former England international and his players were being written-off as busted flushes after losing their opening two fixtures of the League One campaign.

Now, having overcome previously unbeaten Peterborough on Tuesday evening, the charge for promotion is apparently back on.

The truth is, at this early stage, it is impossible to say either with any degree of certainty. But that’s boring and doesn’t suit the mood although it does us all good to get a little carried away at times.

United inevitably remain a work in progress given the sheer scale of their recent overhaul. No accurate or worthwhile assessments can be made until mid-September at the earliest although, admittedly, some subjects for discussion ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Crawley Town have already emerged.

Having performed in patches during defeats by Bristol City and Coventry, a goals per game average of exactly 1.0 confirms they must become more clinical in the opposition’s final third. But United’s game management during the closing stages of an absorbing contest at London Road was impressive and suggests the soft-underbelly which has plagued them in recent seasons could, hopefully, soon be a thing of the past.

But only time will tell.

The same, meanwhile, goes for Andy Butler’s future at Bramall Lane. The centre-half has made only one appearance for United since arriving from Walsall earlier this summer but was named on the bench in midweek.

A glimmer of hope? Perhaps. Especially as Clough insisted before leaving Peterborough that “every member of our squad” will be granted opportunities to impress over the course of what is sure to be a long and gruelling campaign.

Butler, a no-nonsense bloke performer both on and off the pitch, made a mistake, in my book at least, by opting to watch his old club after failing to make the squad which lost at Sixfields Stadium last weekend. Perhaps, on reflection, he would privately admit that now himself.

In normal circumstances, Butler should be free to return to the Banks’s Stadium whenever he chooses. But, by doing so at this moment in time, he only fuelled the rumour mill.

It was a rare false step in what has been an otherwise sure-footed career.

Butler, though, is an honest individual and good professional. The type of guy you want to see do well. Which is why, from a personal perspective, I hope patience prevails. Because, when he rediscovers his best form, he possesses the qualities to become a real asset over the coming months.

*Twitter: @JamesShield1