Nigel Adkins admits recent events at Bramall Lane have forced him to tear-up his promotion masterplan.
But, far from calling time on Sheffield United’s bid for Championship football next term, the League One club’s manager has vowed to devise a new strategy capable of enhancing its top-two credentials after a challenging start to the present campaign.
Adkins, who frequently quotes Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’ during his pre-match briefings, said: “You always have a plan at the start of the season but in this or any other walk of life, it changes. You might have the perfect plan going onto a battlefield but, you can guarantee, something will happen that alters things completely. We had a few things in mind after first coming in which, for one reason or another, we haven’t been able to progress. That’s not unusual or cause for complaint. It’s normal. That’s why we are perfectly capable of, and willing to, changing things as we go along.”
Adkins, who could be without Jamal Campbell-Ryce and David Edgar for Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Oldham Athletic after both were diagnosed with hamstring complaints, has been forced to contend with a series of fitness issues since being appointed in June. Coaching staff believe those help to explain why United, 12 points behind second-placed Coventry City, boast the competition’s fifth best attack but eighth worst defence.
Last weekend’s game against Barnsley lent further weight to Adkins’ theory that performances will improve when partnerships are allowed to develop on the pitch. Although Neill Collins was conceded the penalty which Conor Hourihane duly missed before equalising deep into added time, the 50-year-old believes a lack of communication between the Scot and his fellow centre-half Edgar forced Collins to make a tackle rather than simply shepherd Adam Hammill towards safety.
Sun’s ancient treatise emphasises the importance of remaining “serene” during conflict situations and Adkins, speaking earlier this week, revealed: “I like to go walking in the countryside, sit down, get my book out, and write some things down; different ideas, where we are at this moment, what we need to do and what we can learn.
“Then, most importantly, what we can do to action all of that going forward. It’s important, I feel, to remove yourself at times. To get completely out of your usual environment.
“I enjoy surrounding myself with nature because that energises me. It works for me anyway. Everyone has got their own way of doing things but that’s what I like. It’s important to reflect. I always analyse every single game but it’s important to reflect properly as well.”