The dawn of a bright new era. But, after appointing their third permanent manager in less than two years yesterday, Sheffield United’s objective remains the same.
Nigel Adkins. Plus ca change.
“We all know where we want to be,” Adkins told The Star last night. “Players, staff and supporters, we all want the same things and we all want to get to the same place.
“But there are no guarantees and it’s going to be tough. That’s exactly what this division is. Tough. Nobody should be under any illusions about that.”
United’s hierarchy, who selected Adkins from a short-list of candidates which also included Phil Parkinson and Mark Warburton are confident this time will be different. Both in the short-term and, as they prepare for a fifth consecutive season as a League One team, over a longer period too.
Danny Wilson, David Weir and most recently Nigel Clough have all been and gone since the club’s slide into the third tier in 2011. Talented men. But none possessing the same knack of moulding promotion-winning squads as Adkins who has achieved the feat, twice, with both Scunthorpe and Southampton before being unveiled in the opulent surroundings of McCabe’s Central London offices yesterday.
“We’ve done it three times before, got promoted out of League One, and so of course we can draw on those experiences, of course,” Adkins continued. “There are no givens, no absolute rights and nobody is going to say ‘Sheffield United deserve to go up’ so let’s just let them do that.
“We know first hand that’s not how it works. But we also know what can be achieved.”
Adkins will begin work immediately. Although Clough left a solid legacy - publishing United’s retained and released list and organising a summer training camp in the south-west - there are other issues to address. Targets must be identified and then secured at both centre-forward and centre-half while Adkins must also decide if Michael Higdon and Jamal Campbell-Ryce have futures at Bramall Lane after apparently being informed they were available for transfer by his predecessor. Neill Collins will hope for a reprieve and Diego De Girolamo has a choice to make after previously insisting he would not be signing a new contract.
Friendlies against the likes of Matlock Town, Ilkeston and probably Exeter City should have an extra edge as those colleagues recruited by Clough, including Kieron Freeman, Chris Basham, Paul Coutts and Marc McNulty hope to convince Adkins they should be included in his starting eleven.
I’m so excited to get this job because it’s a special, special clubNigel Adkins
“One of the things Andy (Crosby), Dean (Wilkins) and myself like to do is create the right environment,” he explained. “Create an environment where people can enjoy working hard to improve.
“And that’s what everyone has got to strive to do. Try and improve. Give everything you’ve got to do that.
“We’ve had lads before who have come through from the lowest levels and gone on to become internationals. “That just goes to show what, when you’ve got the right attitude and a positive mentality, it’s capable to do. Yes, of course, you always try and do little bits and bobs here and there. But what underpins everything is that desire to try and improve the players you’ve already got. Work well with them.”
Adkins’ CV makes impressive reading. He started his managerial career at Bangor City,delivering two League of Wales titles before taking charge at Glanford Park where he twice led Scunthorpe into the Championship. Adkins was then responsible for leading Southampton from League One into the Premier League before leaving St Mary’s in 2013. He parted company with Reading six months ago.
“Do you know what? That was the longest I’ve ever been out of football since I was sixteen,” he said. “I just love this game and yes, while there are ups and downs, it’s a brilliant way of life.
“That’s why I’m just so excited to get this job because it’s a special, special club.”