Sheffield United’s young players have been urged to make themselves heard as Nigel Clough’s side prepares to resume its League One campaign against Rochdale this afternoon.
Jay McEveley, the former Swindon Town, Blackburn Rovers and Barnsley full-back, issued the instruction despite insisting United remain on course to rediscover the defensive solidity which made them such a formidable proposition last term.
He told The Star: “Experience enables you to cheat a little bit, for want of a better word. To put yourself in the right positions so you can cut out that pass or not get yourself one on one with their winger.
“Talking helps as well. Just opening your mouth and organising the people around and in front of you.
“I tell the younger lads that. ‘Just open your mouth and it makes your life so much easier.’
“That’s something you’ve just got to learn though because, at that age, you’re just concentrating on your own game so hard.”
United enter today’s game unbeaten in four outings after following victories over Peterborough, Crawley Town and West Ham in the Capital One Cup with a hard-fought draw at Preston North End. Nevertheless, having bemoaned their lack of clean sheets since reaching the semi-finals of the FA Cup five months ago, Clough called upon his squad to develop a more ruthless streak before returning home from Deepdale.
McEveley, who arrived at Bramall Lane earlier this summer, said: “We’re nearly there as a unit. We conceded against Preston but they didn’t tear us apart or create tons of chances.
“At West Ham we were solid and at Peterborough we only conceded from a set-piece which, admittedly, we could have done better on.
“It takes time to develop that understanding but we’re doing that. Clean sheets have got to be the base.”
Rochdale arrive in South Yorkshire having scored seven goals without reply in their previous two outings and gained promotion from League Two last term.
“Keith is a great manager and he’s done wonders at Rochdale,” McEveley, who worked under the 45-year-old at Oakwell, said. “They’re a good team and they got promoted. They played some lovely stuff last year. We know they’ll be up for it and looking to come straight out of the blocks so we’ve got to be ready for that.”
McEveley, who is set to make his six appearance after joining United soon after the start of the present campaign, added: “It’s been brilliant. I didn’t expect to be in the team so quickly or on the pitch for that matter.
“But that’s good because I didn’t have a pre-season and there’s no better way of getting fit than playing games. I was in good enough shape to get out there but there’s more to come from me.
“The last 10 minutes of games, when you get the benefits of that, I still need to catch-up on. But the (international) break has been good for me because I’ve been able to get my legs back and really work hard on that.”