Nigel Clough last night explained why Sheffield United have opted to load their options in central midfield ahead of the 2014/15 campaign.
Clough, who unveiled former Tranmere Rovers captain James Wallace as his seventh summer signing earlier this month, has embarked on a major revamp of United’s squad since being appointed in October with Chris Basham and Ben Davies also arriving at Bramall Lane during the close season.
Although Clough acknowledged a new centre-forward is now his immediate priority despite the uncertainty surrounding Harry Maguire’s long-term future in South Yorkshire, he revealed United’s recruitment policy is designed to ensure they are equipped to seize control of games when League One competition resumes on August 9.
“How we do in there will dictate how many chances we create,” Clough said. “It will also dictate how many chances we allow the opposition.
“Central midfield is so important because it’s the engine room of the team. It’s important because it can hold everything else together.
“If you dominate in there then, the chances are, you are going to have a good game. It’s an area that everyone wants to control.”
Hinting that he will once again ask United to chase glory on more than one front, Clough added: “If things go the way we want then, as we say last time out, there’s a chance we could end up playing something nearing 60 games.
“That means we’ve got to have option there. You can’t go in with just one or two.
“You’ve got to have flexibility and the ability to adapt depending on the situation.”
United lost only two of their remaining fixtures en route to a seventh placed finish and the FA Cup semi-finals last term. However, during a forensic examination of victories over the likes of Rotherham and Coventry City, Clough identified a failure to impose themselves on opponents as a matter which needed to be urgently addressed.
Basham, previously of Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool, is an almost certain starter with United scheduled to decide his exact role during friendlies against Burton Albion, Huddersfield and Northampton Town. Davies’ versatility - he was deployed both at full-back and along the flanks after initially joining on loan from Derby County in March - means the 33-year-old is again expected to emerge as an influential figure.
Wallace’s presence, combined with the fact that Michael Doyle also remains at Clough’s disposal, leaves United coaching staff grappling with a clutch of onerous but welcome selection dilemmas.
“It’s up to the players to decide for us,” he said. “The important thing, from our perspective, is that we have the choices.”