Conor Coady would be ‘delighted’ to rejoin Sheffield United next season if Liverpool decide his development is best served by another spell at Bramall Lane, writes James Shield.
The former England under-20 captain returns to Anfield following tomorrow’s League One fixture against Coventry City insisting he has matured “as a person and a player” during a memorable 10 months with Nigel Clough’s side.
Although the final decision on Coady’s immediate future will be taken by Brendan Rodgers and his coaching staff, the player himself told The Star: “If they say that I should comeback then, definitely, without a shadow of a doubt. If that was on option then I’d be made up.
“As I’ve always made clear, I love it here. Everything about the place.
“Working with the gaffer and the rest of the lads. I’ve loved every single minute of it all.”
The 2013/14 campaign has certainly been memorable for Coady. Signed by Clough’s predecessor David Weir hours before a friendly at Mansfield Town, he prepares for what could be his final game in United colours with an FA Cup semi-final appearance, change of manager and experience of life at both ends of the table on a footballing CV which, depending on Clough’s team selection, could also include another important landmark event.
“I’ve played 49 games for United and hopefully I’ll make that 50,” Coady, speaking earlier this week, continued. “If I do then, for me personally, that’s going to be massive. Something that will make me really proud.
“I came here wanting to prove myself and to get better at what I do. I don’t know what the gaffer is going to do or what he has in mind regarding the team (for Coventry) but I’ll be giving him a little nudge definitely because I want to play every single match.”
So how has Coady, who arrived in South Yorkshire as an exciting but untested talent, changed since making his league debut during August’s victory over Notts County? Clough, appointed soon after Weir’s departure in September, intimated during a recent briefing with the media that the 21-year-old possesses the skill-set required to make an impact at both ends of the pitch.
Initially tasked with protecting a defence which has conceded only 13 times in its last 22 outings, Coady has scored six goals and claimed four assists under Clough’s tutelage and been instrumental in United’s climb from 21st to eighth in the table.
However, as well as honing his attacking instincts, Coady’s psychological approach has also improved.
“I know what it means to win a game of football now,” he said. “In the reserves, it’s all about trying to work on different aspects of your trade and just trying to get better whereas, in senior football, the result is the most important thing.
“Everyone wants to win in style. But, if you’ve got to win ugly, then so be it.
“I definitely get forward a lot more now and I try to make my presence felt in the opposition’s box. But that, the need to whatever it takes, is probably the biggest thing I’ve learned.”
The power of pragmatism over panache is something Coady’s parent club also discovered last weekend when Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea dealt their hopes of securing the Premier League title a potentially devastating blow. A boyhood Liverpool supporter as well as employee, Coady will not have appreciated the more cynical aspects of the Portuguese’s gameplan. But, as he prepares to review his situation with Rodgers, Clough’s influence means Mourinho’s mean streak also commands his begrudging respect.
“I’m definitely a lot tougher as a person,” Coady insisted. “The gaffer here has been brilliant with me in a number of different ways.
“He likes to keep things simple and there’s no messing about. If you are doing something right then he tells you but, equally, if you’re not doing what he wants then he tells you how it is as well. There’s no messing about.
“When you’re a young player, as I am, that’s exactly what you want. If someone is filling your head with lots of stuff that isn’t straight or not letting you know exactly how it is then you are never going to get better.”
United’s transformation under Clough has been nothing short of remarkable. Averaging 0.69 points per game before he took charge, they prepare to host City boasting a figure of 1.42 and would enter tomorrow’s match ranked fifth if only results since October 23rd were taken into account. However their success, which also included reaching the last four of the FA Cup, has come at a price with tomorrow’s match their 55th of the season and 24th in 92 days.
Coady, who will watch Liverpool resume their bid for the FAPL crown against Crystal Palace on Monday, is unlikely to discover Rodgers’ thoughts on his progress until after that later this month but said: “Hopefully Liverpool keep going and wrap it up but it’s up to me to finish the season well and then we’ll see what happens.
“We’ll see what the plan is and then take things from there. But, like I’ve said all the way through, I’ve loved every single minute of being here.”
Teams and ref
Darren Bond. Will be taking charge of his second fixture involving Sheffield United this season after also overseeing their visit to Carlisle in September. Harry Maguire and Callum McFadzean were among six players cautioned that day. Bond, who is based in Lancashire, has issued 99 yellow cards so far this term at an average of 3.41 per game. He has sent off two players and booked 10 in his last three outings. Bond is preparing for his first appointment at Bramall Lane since being promoted to the Football League List.
UNITed (possible): Howard, Brayford, Maguire, Hill, Freeman, Coady, Doyle, Flynn, Scougall, Murphy, Baxter (4-2-3-1).
Coventry (possible): Joe Murphy, Willis, Christie , Thomas, Webster, Prutton, Fleck, Marshall, Clarke, Delfouneso, Wilson (4-4-2).