Nigel Clough last night warned Sheffield United’s League One rivals they have yet to see the best of his new-look side, writes James Shield.
Clough, the United manager, made the admission after insisting it will “inevitably take time” for a squad bolstered by 11 new signings to become an efficient footballing machine.
“It takes time for people to settle and everyone does that at a different rate,” he said. “You’ve got to be patient. We’re still quite a way short of where we want to be in terms of gelling but we are still picking up results which is good.
“This time last year the club was bottom. Now we’re seventh so that’s a big change and a positive one too.
“We know we can get better though. That’s part of the process but it’s what we are striving to do.”
“In an ideal world you would have everyone in well before pre-season starts and then have a good four or five weeks together building and getting everything in place,” Clough added. “Lines of communication and such like.
“But football isn’t ideal. It doesn’t work like that.”
United head to Chesterfield this weekend ranked seventh in the League One table - a point ahead of their next opponents - and having won seven of their last nine games.
Jamal Campbell-Ryce could return at the Proact Stadium after making significant progress in his battle to overcome a calf problem but Jose Baxter, despite resuming light training, is expected to miss-out.
“There’s a chance Jamal will be okay,” Clough said. “And that’s good because he was in very fine form before he had to drop-out.
“As we always say, we will err on the side of caution because we don’t want any set-backs. But we’re hoping he’ll be fine.
“We’ll know more, though, later in the week.”
Two recent arrivals, James Wallace and Michael Higdon, both impressed during United’s victory over Gillingham five days ago with the latter scoring his second goal in as many outings.
By his own admission, Higdon was short of match-fitness after electing not to return to his former club NEC Nijmegen following their relegation from the Dutch Eredivisie last term while Wallace, previously of Tranmere Rovers, has been hampered by knee and groin complaints.
“James isn’t 100 per cent. But he’s shown his potential,” Clough said. “We were pleased to get him because we know what a good player he is.
“We thought this would be the case, that he might pick a few things up, because he’d been out for so long. That always seems to happen but he’s showing what he’s capable of now.
“Michael is also showing signs of getting up to speed. The goal he scored against Gillingham was very well taken and, like all strikers, that will do wonders for his confidence.
“Especially as he got one in the game before against Leyton Orient as well.”
United netted twice during the closing minutes of their meeting with Peter Taylor’s side and Clough added: “We were thrilled with the win over Gillingham. But we just wish we’d got it sorted in the first half.
“We took it by the scruff of the neck in the last 15 minutes. Someone told me we put over 50 crosses in the box. I know we had over 20 shots and that’s the type of things we’d love to see continue.
“We’ve scored late on a lot recently. It’s down to fitness and mentality, the whole package really.
“It’s important to be able to keep on going right until the end because, in our experience, that’s when a lot of teams can become very vulnerable.
“But I don’t think it’s anything we’ve really had to instil because, hopefully, the characters we’ve got here have it anyway.”