Sheffield United: Travelling man Edgar has a world of experience

David Edgar
David Edgar
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He has travelled to matches under armed escort and represented Canada in some of the most dangerous countries on Earth.

So it was hardly surprising, when one unenlightened reporter asked whether the prospect of facing Manchester United next month was intimidating that David Edgar looked distinctly unimpressed.

“There have been a few bags filled with not very nice stuff, shall I say, flying about when we’ve gone to El Salvador,” he said. “And there were laser-pointers being shone in your face. But you just have to deal with it and get on with it. No excuses. Do your job.”

Forget clichéd talk about Fortress Old Trafford or the menacing qualities of the Stretford End. Edgar, the Sheffield United centre-half, has tasted true hostility on international duty with Benito Flores’ squad.

Membership of the CONCACAF region guarantees regular fixtures against the likes of Mexico or Honduras where Arnold Peralta, the former Glasgow Rangers and Los Catrachos player, was shot dead earlier this month. Edgar described his recent visit to San Salvador, where a war between the Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street gangs claimed around 700 lives in June alone, at the Steelphalt Academy last week.

“Landing in El Salvador, we had to hire our own security because we couldn’t trust the provider given to us,” he said. “There were 10 guards around us when we got off the plane and a ceasefire organised by the government had collapsed.

Neill Collins

Neill Collins

“There have been some really difficult trips and everybody saw what happened to the Honduran player. That’s where we are going to play them pretty soon. It’s just so sad when things come to that. But, when we go into these situations, we just have to roll up our sleeves and be counted.”

“In my first cycle with Canada, it was like ‘wWoah, what’s going on here?’ But you noticed a lot of the older guys had seen it all before,” Edgar added.

“You really do just have to block it all out. Nobody is going to harm you, hopefully, so just try and focus on your job.

“The Central American and South American countries will do whatever it takes to win, they’ll grab any advantage they can get.

“They come to us and we roll out the red carpet for them but, hey, there you go.”

First though, before contemplating visits to Tegucigalpa or an FA Cup tie at Old Trafford, Edgar must focus on this afternoon’s Yorkshire derby against Bradford City.

The meeting, between League One’s eighth and ninth-ranked teams, threatens to be a brutal, uncompromising contest.

Phil Parkinson’s side rarely take a backwards step while United, managed by Nigel Adkins, have won their previous three outings after adopting a more physical approach.

Jay McEveley

Jay McEveley

“Sometimes, you’ve just got to roll up your sleeves and say you are in a fight,” Edgar said. “People can get a bit sniffy about things like that but, personally, I don’t see the problem.

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“What’s wrong with everybody putting in a shift? We’ve got flair players who can jink past people but everything comes from a solid structure.

“If you go against the best teams,and press them in ones and twos, then they’ll pick you off. We don’t want that happening. We want to be nasty, we want tackles and we want to see people getting in the opposition’s faces.

“With Canada, we are nearly always the underdog so we have to do that. It might always not be the case here but the same principles apply.”

Adkins’ decision to revise United’s tactical template - he arrived at Bramall Lane in June promising open, attacking play - has also coincided with a run of three consecutive clean sheets.

Edgar, on loan from Birmingham City, also attributes those improved defensive displays to a settled selection policy following the return of John Brayford and Jay McEveley from injury.

“Clean sheets, for us lads at the back, are like goals, Edgar continued. “As a defender, you love consistency and, when we had that, the performances were there.

“But the manager hasn’t always been able to pick a consistent defence because of injuries. Hopefully that’s all going to change. Every manager in the country will tell you that consistency is important.

“By being out there together on a regular basis, you get partnerships going. You get better communication and that’s vital all across the pitch.”

United, who will climb above City in the table if their record their 10th home victory of the campaign, drew 2-2 at Valley Parade earlier this term.

Edgar, now recovered from a troublesome hamstring complaint, is again expected to partner Neill Collins at their heart of their rearguard while McEveley and midfielder Chris Basham are set to take part despite receiving treatment for knocks sustained during the win over Scunthorpe.

Full-back Bob Harris could be available following a foot problem,

Edgar added: “I’ve never had an injury, really, in my career before, The gaffer here knew I was pretty resilient like that so to be out was so frustrating.

But I learnt a lot about how to take even better care of myself, about how prehab and preparation is so important. The medical department have been brilliant and I feel fitter and stronger than ever.”