Sheffield United: Clough throws down the gauntlet ahead of Gills clash

Clough wants players to show they are worthy of a first-team place � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Clough wants players to show they are worthy of a first-team place � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
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Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has thrown down the gauntlet to his players ahead of tomorrow’s crucial League One fixture against Gillingham, writes James Shield.

Despite expressing satisfaction with the depth of Bramall Lane’s first team squad - “We have got enough numbers” - Clough indicated he will not shy away from embarking on a recruitment drive during the January window if doubts emerge about its quality.

United enter their meeting with Peter Taylor’s side 23rd in the table but knowing a win would lift them out of the relegation zone.

Hinting that places in his first-choice eleven are still up-for-grabs, Clough said: “I don’t know my best team yet. We’re still in the process of assessing and making one or two changes here and there.

“You don’t get to know players in three months. It takes several months for you to find out who you can rely on or know what their best positions are a even playing home or away can make a difference. “

United, who expect goalkeeper George Long to secure a temporary release from England under-21’s training camp, are nevertheless understood to be compiling a list of potential targets when English football re-opens for business early next year.

The Star understands that Mansfield Town’s Sam Clucas is among those to have been monitored by coaching staff in recent weeks although it remains unclear whether they are preparing a firm offer for the 23-year-old midfielder.

Clough allowed centre-forward Joe Ironside to join Halifax on loan three days ago and is open to the possibility of others securing temporary moves elsewhere, adding: “We have got one or two who could do with going out for a bit.”

*Twitter: @JamesShield1