Sheffield United: The scramble starts

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Nigel Cough is poised to express an interest in the vacant managerial position at Sheffield United, The Star understands.

Sources close to the 47-year-old, who parted company with Derby County earlier this month, last night indicated he would be prepared to discuss the role with Bramall Lane’s hierarchy following the departure of David Weir.

Clough, who spent four years at Pride Park, rose to prominence in coaching circles after effectively leading Burton Albion out of the Conference six seasons ago.

Crucially, given United’s determination to integrate graduates of their Redtooth Academy into the senior squad, he also boasts a reputation for developing young players.

Jamie Ward, the former United centre-forward who worked under Clough at County, said earlier this week: “I think the news (of Clough’s exit) surprised us all.

“But he did an awful lot for me, he took me there and made me a main player for the last two or three years. When he left I thanked him for all he did for me.”

Clough, though, is not the only potential candidate with the credentials to revitalise United after a wretched start to the League One campaign left them 22nd in the table ahead of tomorrow’s fixture against Coventry City.

Keith Curle, a former United defender, made in instant impact at Notts County and still lives in the region despite leaving the Midlands club in February.

He also impressed as a member of the backroom staff at Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers where, together with Neil Warnock, he helped deliver top-flight football to Loftus Road.

Leyton Orient’s Russell Slade and Richie Barker of Crawley Town are also known to boast admirers behind the scenes at Bramall Lane.

United embarked upon a lengthy interview process before inviting Weir to take charge in June.

However, after losing seven of their opening 10 outings in the competition, they are expected to make a quick appointment this time around.

Indeed, directors are likely to have discussed Weir’s successor before concluding their board meeting in London yesterday.

Jose Baxter, who joined United from Oldham Athletic earlier this term, insisted the first-team squad, not Weir, should take responsibility for their predicament towards the foot of the table.

Speaking during the club’s pre-match media briefing, where the former Scotland international later discussed the visit to Sixfields Stadium seemingly unaware its hierarchy were poised to wield the axe, Baxter said: “It’s not his fault, it’s our fault as players so blame us rather than him.

“There’s definitely too much pressure on him. I don’t think that’s fair.

“People always say ‘it’s the manager this’ and ‘it’s the manager that’ but ultimate, when we cross that white line, it’s down to us.

“He picks what he thinks is the best team. Then we have to go out there and show it.”

Baxter also vehemently denied suggestions that Weir’s footballing philosophy had failed to strike a chord in the dressing room.

“For me, he’s different class,” the midfielder continued. “Him, Lee Carsley and Adam Owen, all three. We love them all to bits and are 100 per cent behind them.

“Of course you can pass your way out of this division. Swansea did it and look where they are now. Wigan did it too and they’re in Europe.”

The decision to relieve Weir and Carsley of their duties means Chris Morgan, who served as caretaker following Danny Wilson’s departure earlier this year, will take charge of the meeting with City.

Goalkeeper coach Darren Ward and Travis Binnion, head of academy coaching, are set to assist the former centre-half.

Repairing United’s sense of self-belief after a debilitating sequence of results will be the number one item on their agenda ahead of a game against one of the division’s in-form teams.

Tuesday’s second round defeat provoked what Michael Doyle, the United captain, later described as a “pretty frank” discussion in the home dressing room and Baxter, who is set to feature against Steven Pressley’s side, is confident that could elicit the desired response, saying: “It was a kick-up the backside for us.”

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