A SERIES of combative displays have made him a strong contender to be named their Player of the Year, but Stephen Quinn would gladly swap any individual honours for Sheffield United’s survival.
“I never dreamt that we would find ourselves in this position. I can remember chatting with Kevin Blackwell last season and we were talking about going for promotion,” he said.
Eight months and another three managers later, those hopes have disappeared into the footballing ether. Micky Adams’ side face leaders Queens Park Rangers tonight 22nd in the Championship table and with just eight games left to claw back the seven-point gap between themselves and safety.
Nearly six weeks ago, following a dramatic collapse at relegation rivals Scunthorpe, it appeared an impossible task.
But Adams, who inherited a squad ravaged by injury and behind-the-scenes turmoil when caretaker John Carver departed in December, has since overseen an upturn in fortunes which has given United a fighting chance of avoiding relegation.
Quinn said recent victories against Nottingham Forest and Leeds reflect a growing sense of togetherness behind the scenes.
“The gaffer has tried everything to get the best out of us and not so long ago he brought in someone who gave us a talk about communicating better. We’ve seen them a few times since and it’s been really positive stuff,” he said.
“We’ve been having meetings, which the gaffer and his staff have encouraged, where we all sit down and have a frank discussion about what’s happened during a match. Everything is out in the open and that’s much better than just going home and dwelling on things.
“Having so many managers this season isn’t ideal because everyone likes to do things differently.
“We’ve also had a lot of different players coming through the club and perhaps we lost a little bit of that group mentality that’s served us so well in the past. But it’s back now.
“We’ve beaten two teams who are right up there in the table and neither of those results were flukes. But it’s also frustrating because it also makes you think what might have been.”
The decision to hold a ‘huddle’ immediately before kick-off is another indication of United’s new-found spirit.
“We had one after the win over Leeds too,” said Quinn. “It’s really good to see the lads just doing it spontaneously and without thinking now.
“What we say in there is going to remain a secret. That’s between us.
“But I think stuff like that has gone a long way towards helping some of the new boys settle in quickly. They feel as if they’re a part of something a lot sooner than otherwise might have been the case.”
Quinn, who graduated from United’s youth academy in 2005, added: “Morgs (Chris Morgan) has been travelling down to all the away games with us and that’s been great. Monty (Nick Montgomery) has taken over the captaincy since the skipper has been out and even when he was injured he came too.
“That was great to see. We all sit down in the hotel the night before and have a team meeting. Everyone speaks freely. Nobody holds back when they go over things that might happen or have been happening out there on the pitch.
“Honestly, I really do think it’s helped us pick up.”
Adams endured a difficult start to life in South Yorkshire. Despite guiding Port Vale to second place in the League Two table, he was forced to wait 14 matches before breaking his duck in the Bramall Lane dug-out.
“Just because we struggled a bit to start with it didn’t make the gaffer a bad manager,” said Quinn. “He doesn’t achieve what he did at Port Vale and with other clubs and then suddenly lose his touch does he?”