Sheffield United manager Nigel Adkins has urged his players not to let Port Vale drive a wedge between themselves and Bramall Lane’s home support when they visit South Yorkshire this weekend.
Adkins, who also confirmed centre-half Neill Collins could return against Robert Page’s side after missing Tuesday’s game against Bury, told the League One club’s media conference earlier this afternoon that Vale will attempt to exploit any divisions in the United camp.
“Rob will come and it will be competitive,” Adkins said. “They will want to come here, keep the crowd quiet for 10 minutes and get them to turn on the players.
“That will be part of their game strategy. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen and start brightly. We need to get wins. It’s all about grit and resilience.”
United slipped to ninth in the table when they were beaten at Gigg Lane and Adkins acknowledged: “There are question marks over all of us, because of where we are. Our football club will need to get where it wants to be, the structure will be right, and you are either going to be a part of it or you’re not.”
Centre-forward Billy Sharp, United’s leading goalscorer this season, is poised to start Saturday’s contest after being hampered by foot and hamstring complaints in recent weeks.
Adkins insisted some of the criticism which had followed United’s most recent result had been unfair - “It’s easy to say the players are passionless. I disagree” - but conceded the performance had been “lacking” in key areas.
“Billy is fit, he played the full second half (at Bury) and there has been no repercussions from that,” Adkins said. “I would like to think he has the bit between his teeth for Saturday now, which is good.
“Neill Collins has been out on the training pitch this morning, running around, so we will just wait to see what reaction he has. We are optimistic on that, we just have to see how his ankle reacts overnight.”