At first glance, Sheffield United’s new manager will inherit a squad painfully low on results and self-belief.
Lyle Taylor acknowledges their predicament at the foot of the League One table represents cause for concern but, having opened his account for the club in dramatic fashion last weekend, confidence is coursing through the young centre-forward’s veins.
“I feel great after getting off the mark,” Taylor, who scored twice during Sunday’s visit to Coventry City, told The Star. “It’s a massive weight off my shoulders, I’m not going to deny.
“Strikers are paid to score, that’s our job, that’s what we are supposed to bring to the team.
“So, when you aren’t doing that it does become a bit of an issue. You do feel bad, especially when you’re not winning games.”
The art of scoring goals is something Taylor appeared to have mastered following a prolific spell with Falkirk.
The former AFC Bournemouth and Millwall striker joined United earlier this year having claimed 29 in just 42 outings for the Scottish Championship side.
But, after commanding a £250,000 fee on his return to England, he drew a blank in his next 13 games.
That barren streak, which by a strange twist of fate ended against opponents managed by Steven Pressley, his mentor in Stirlingshire, prompted some to claim Taylor had lost his touch.
It’s a charge he appreciates was always going to be levelled but vehemently denies.
“The one thing Steven always reminded me, and which David (Weir) always reminded me too, is that if you know how to put the ball in the back of the net, then the level is irrelevant,” Taylor, speaking at United’s Redtooth Academy earlier this week, explained. “It’s something you just know how to do.
“Getting goals, no matter who you are doing it for or who you are doing it against, all boils down to the same thing. You go through the same processes and routines.”
“I’ll give you an example,” he continued. “People always ask why is it that when you get a few goals, more seem to follow?
“Well, technically, you don’t do anything differently. What does happen, though, is that you don’t think, you just ‘do’.
“When things are going well in front of goal, when a chances comes, you just shoot. It’s only afterwards that you think ‘I might have missed that’ but it never enters your head at the time.
“When things aren’t going well, you start obsessing about the little details, wondering ‘where shall I put the ball? How should I position myself to try and disguise what I’m doing?’
“Then, what usually happens is someone nips in and the chance has gone.
“When things are going well, everything flows. It feels instinctive.
“But actually, it’s not. It’s just that all the things you work hard on during training, all the things you’ve practised throughout your career, come together.
“It feels natural but actually it boils down to hard work. It doesn’t matter where you are or who you are playing for, the principles remain the same.”
United, who dispensed with Weir’s services 48 hours before their 3-2 defeat at Sixfields Stadium, enter tomorrow’s visit of Port Vale in 24th place and searching for a first win since beating Notts County on the opening weekend of the campaign.
Given that Weir’s replacement is likely to have viewed the Coventry contest, Taylor’s coming of age could not have been timed better. But it also means he must prove himself all over again.
“Those goals have been and gone now. You’ve got to be ruthless and I suppose a bit selfish in this business, which means you draw a line and only ever look to the next game,” he said. “That’s the way you go on a run, by not resting on your laurels and being ruthless.”
“In my position, you need to be quite single-minded at times,” Taylor added. “When an opening presents itself, the chances are that if it falls to an attacker they are going to ‘have a go.’
“But there’s a bit of a balancing act because, despite all of that, we are still part of a bigger unit. Just as we usually need people to create chances for us, we can help out other lads in the team by working hard, linking play and closing down when it’s called for.”
Vale, with Micky Adams and assistant Robert Page at the helm, are expected to prove obstinate opponents. Vale are nine points and 12 positions above their hosts in the rankings, and both men possess an in-depth knowledge of United having previously served the club as manager and player respectively.
“I’d have swapped my goals for a win against Coventry,” Taylor, aged 23, said. “But the way we came back in that match from three goals down showed our character.
“Morgs (caretaker manager Chris Morgan) was brilliant and he had a massive part to play in that, the same as the fans because they really got behind us when the first goal went in and helped drive us on.
“They shouldn’t under-estimate how important they were. Because the atmosphere they created did drive us on, gave us a real buzz and momentum.
“We’ve got the ability to do well and we’ve shown the right mind-set so the target now is to bring it together.”