SHEFFIELD UNITED: ‘I’m not here to make friends,’ insists Howard

Sheffield United: Blades news, reports and more.
Sheffield United: Blades news, reports and more.
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MARK Howard is ready to incur the wrath of his Sheffield United team mates in an effort to bring Championship football back to Bramall Lane.

Howard, the former Arsenal and Blackpool goalkeeper, told The Star that points, not popularity contests, are the only thing he is interested in winning next season.

“Falling out with people? That’s music to my ears,” he admitted.

“I’m loud and as far as I’m concerned, that penalty area is mine.

“I am more than happy to shout at people if that’s what’s required and make my opinions known.

“In my position, I think it’s important to be like that.

“You’ve got to be decisive and commit yourself to absolutely everything.

“There’s no time for messing about and you get nowhere by doing that.

“Communication is massive. Everything has got to be clear.”

With Steve Simonsen, his predecessor last term, often criticised for indecision, Howard’s words will be music to Danny Wilson’s ears.

Although the United manager has failed to offer any guarantees about whether he will start in front of teenager George Long, it seems inconceivable that the 25-year-old will not be handed the number one jersey when the South Yorkshire club return to League One competition against Shrewsbury Town in 14 days time.

Wilson’s players continue their preparations for the visit of Graham Turner’s side at Morecambe today.

With Matt Hill, Tony McMahon and Darryl Westlake all looking to integrate themselves into a new look back four, Howard, who joined United after leaving Bloomfield Road in February, outlined his priorities at the Globe Arena.

“Basically, it’s all about keeping clean sheets,” he said.

“That’s the be all and end all for me but part of that is getting to know everyone at the back, how we all like to work and making sure we’re tight as a unit.

“The more we work together, the better that’s going to become.”

Howard, a member of the Arsenal squad beaten 2-1 by Chelsea in the 2005 Community Shield, is poised to return against Morecambe after Long completed 90 minutes against Hallam FC on Thursday evening.

Although that 4-0 win, courtesy of goals from Danny Philliskirk and Joe Ironside, preserved United’s unbeaten record during pre-season, Jim Bentley’s side have endured mixed fortunes since finishing a creditable 15th in League Two last term.

Bentley, who saw injuries derail his bid for a top seven finish, tasted success over Preston North End Barrow before defeats to Bury and Bolton Wanderers halted Morecambe’s progress.

Wanderers, who fielded Chris Eagles, David Ngog, Zat Knight and Kevin Davies, also included former United loanee Michael O’Halloran in their squad.

Bentley’s priorities include nursing Nick Fenton, previously of Rotherham and Doncaster Rovers, back from injury.

Striker Richard Brodie, an England C international, appears a valuable acquisition after agreeing a six month loan from Crawley Town.

Brodie, part of the York City which lost the 2010 Conference play-off final to Chris Wilder’s Oxford United, rose to prominence by scoring 53 goals in less than 140 league appearances for the North Yorkshire club.

“I am going to be like a father figure to Richard,” Bentley said.

“We had a few chats and he is the sort of player who needs an arm around him so I’ll speak to him every day and give him the encouragement and support he needs.”

United are expected to name a strong side against the Lancastrians although Jordan Chapell could miss out after damaging his foot at Sandygate.

The winger, who signed a new contract earlier this summer, suffered the injuring after kicking the underside of an opponent’s boot during the opening stages of what proved to be a routine victory.

Hallam goalkeepers Josh Branch and Steve Hancock both performed heroics to deny Ironside and Philliskirk their hat-tricks while Callum McFadzean and Matty Harriott also went close as the final whistle approached.

Wilson, his assistant Frank Barlow and academy chief John Pemberton were all in attendance.

New signings McMahon and Shaun Miller could start against Morecambe after making their United ‘debuts’ at Rotherham’s New York Stadium on Tuesday night.

Hill, who completed Monday’s hat-trick of signings, is also expected to feature while fellow centre-half Neill Collins should take part providing he recovers from a throat infection.

“We’re stepping things up game by game and this should be another really good test,” Wilson said.