Kevin Gage played over 100 times for Sheffield United and, in his exclusive column for The Star, discusses United's winless start to the League One season.
“How about writing a regular column?” The Star asked. “I’d love to,” I replied...
That’ll be easy, I thought. Mistakenly, as it’s turned out! I envisaged some upbeat, positive reports and thoughts on a new vibrant winning team as we made a strong and promising start to our league campaign. But best laid plans and all that. Reality has now kicked in; we’re bottom of the table, and even though it’s ridiculously early in the season to make too many rash judgements, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit concerned with the recent results, and to an extent some performances. And I’ve agreed to a column about it!
I wrote last week about the manager - be it any manager - being unable to legislate for inexplicable errors on the pitch. Low and behold, in the 89th minute at Millwall, we commit defensive self-destruction again to give the opposition all three points. Hold out for another four/five minutes, and it’s a great away point.
We didn’t, of course, leading to rock bottom and another defeat. Now mistakes happen from time to time and over the course of a season all teams suffer from them and they cost results and points. But let’s hope that we are committing our share early in the season and that they stop soon. Very soon. In fact, starting Saturday would be ideal.
But to be honest, I’m more concerned with our output at the other end of the pitch. Our attacking threat in the first four games hasn’t been anything near what it should be with the calibre of forwards and attack-minded players at our disposal. This is highlighted with the match stats that show we’ve only manged 23 shots/headers in our four league games. This is by far the lowest in not only our League, but League Two, and the Championship as well. The average of the other teams is actually around double that.
To compound our low shots total, we’ve only got four of those actually on target. Again, the lowest in those three divisions. These low totals are a combination of many factors, but I’ll pick out just one. Our crossing and final ball has been, quite frankly, terrible. Poor technique, sometimes under no pressure, and poor decisions on where/when to cross have meant the ball not even reaching the strikers on too many occasions.
When the cross has actually beaten the first defender (in itself a rare thing this season) they have also been fired low across the goalmouth without much appreciation of who could possibly get on the end of them. Mostly, they’ve been too hard, too fast, and with too little care. Calmer, cooler heads are required, and better decisions need to be made when in those vital goal-creating areas.
On the subject of crossing, and because I expected to see him flying down the wing creating chances for us, it’s a surprise to see that the first casualty of our start to this season has been a certain John Brayford, who hasn’t played anything like we know he can. His crossing particularly, in the past such a feature of his surges forward, has been terribly disappointing and just about summed up his lack of form.
The marriage seemingly made in heaven has gone a bit sour, it’s has turned out to be a short-term affair, and he’s left us for another man! I’m sure him and Nigel will be happy together, and a separation is in everyone’s best interests. I expect a full divorce from us in time!
Oxford at BDTBL on Saturday, then, has suddenly turned into a vital game for us. All games are important, of course, but I feel these three points will be more welcome than most, and would go some way to settling a few nerves; both on the pitch, and in the stands.
Get behind the team please, and the manager too for that matter. These are our players, playing for our club, and for our manager. We all want the same thing, and we need to do our utmost to help.
As always, players need our backing, not our barracking. Lets ‘do our bit’ and get them through these early season jitters. It’s for the best, trust me. UTB