Nigel Adkins, the Sheffield United manager, last night dismissed Phil Brown’s claim that Southend are “100 per cent out” of the play-off race.
Instead, speaking ahead of this evening’s League One fixture at Roots Hall, Adkins insisted his opposite number’s outburst following Friday’s defeat by Rochdale is designed to provoke a response against the visitors from South Yorkshire.
“Phil might be saying that publicly,” Adkins said. “Privately, though, he’s be desperate to get in there and doing everything he can to make sure that’s the case. Sometimes, things like this can be designed to try and take the pressure off a little bit. I think that definitely applies in this case because, knowing Phil, he won’t be giving-up that easily. No way.”
Of course, with the two clubs level on points with eight matches remaining, Adkins has good reason to challenge Brown’s assertion that Southend have no chance of overhauling the nine point gap between themselves and Bradford City in sixth. Actions, though, speak louder than words and Brown’s decision to sign Franck Moussa on a short-term contract yesterday suggests Adkins is right to treat the former Derby County chief’s words with caution.
Adam Barrett, the Southend centre-half, has also rubbished suggestions that his colleagues have given-up on the play-offs.
“We need a reaction on Wednesday against Sheffield United and we need the three points,” Barrett said. “Football is a funny game and things can change quickly.
“One good week can put you right back in the picture but we know we have to improve on our (Rochdale) performance.”
Adkins, who has made no attempt to downplay expectation levels at Bramall Lane since taking charge in June, explained why he has adopted a more confident approach.
“We want to be successful, we want to be achieving things and when you are a club like this, you are expected to achieve them,” Adkins said. “So why would we shy away from that? Instead, we embrace it and treat it as something positive. You can never give-up, ever.”
“That’s not how we are here,” Adkins added. “This is a great football club and we want the best for it. We’ll be giving everything to get in.”