Football, Bill Shankly once claimed, is a simple game made complicated by people who should know better, writes James Shield.
It is a theory to which Ryan Flynn, who enjoyed a spell on Liverpool’s books as a youngster, readily subscribes.
Asked what methods Nigel Clough has employed to transform Sheffield United’s season, the former Scotland under-21 international neglected to mention complex training drills and tactics.
Instead, Flynn argued last night, their improved results can be largely be attributed to one thing. Enjoyment.
“Jamie Murphy and I were talking about this recently,” he told The Star. “About how, when you are going about your work with a smile on your face, when you look forward to coming in every single day, all the rest just seems to follow.
“Don’t get me wrong, we work hard during the week and the gaffer is very, very big on making sure we are properly prepared. That we know the framework required to try and get the right result.
“But, at the same time, he does encourage us to express ourselves. To go out there and show what we can do.”
Saturday’s defeat by Swindon Town dealt a potentially fatal blow to United’s hopes of qualifying for the League One play-offs. But the fact they enter this evening’s game against second-placed Brentford with even a mathematical chance of finishing inside the top six is remarkable given that, only two months ago, the South Yorkshire club was languishing inside the relegation zone.
Clough insisted last weekend’s loss at the County Ground - only United’s second in 14 outings - signalled the end of their top six chances. Flynn, speaking after his manager’s Jose Mourinho moment, continued to toe the party line at the Redtooth Academy yesterday.
However, with April 13th’s FA Cup semi-final against Hull City looming large on the horizon, the winger inadvertently let slip that United’s squad have not given up promotion just yet.
“We’ve got three matches coming-up with the second, third and fourth ranked teams in the division,” Flynn, assessing a fixture list which sees United entertain Leyton Orient and Rotherham on Saturday and Tuesday respectively, said. “And all of them are at home which gives us a lot of confidence.
“We always fancy out chances at Bramall Lane. There’s been a big improvement since the manager took over (in October) and all we’ve been doing is taking things game by game which might sound boring but that’s the way it’s got to be.
“There are still plenty of points to play for and, matter what happens, there’s still so many incentives for us to do well because that’s the mentality we’ve developed; be hungry for points and determined to bring success.”