IF teams really are constructed in their manager’s image then Sheffield United should brace themselves for an uncomfortable afternoon.
Paul Dickov, whose Oldham Athletic side travel to Bramall Lane today, was nicknamed ‘The Pest’ and ‘The Wasp’ during his own playing days after becoming infamous for verbally harassing opponents.
And, according to Michael Doyle, the former Scotland international will have no qualms about asking the visitors to ruffle some feathers throughout a match with the potential to influence both club’s seasons.
“Paul was a great player,” the United midfielder, who worked with Dickov at Leeds, said. “He absolutely ran his socks off whenever he set foot on the field. He never gave up for a minute and he’ll demand exactly the same from his team. He’ll want them to come here and give everything they’ve got so we’ll have to be ready for that at all times.”
However, avoiding Dickov’s sharp tongue will not be Athletic’s only motivation when they lock horns with Danny Wilson’s squad.
Having suffered 10 League One defeats since being beaten by United on the opening day of the season at Boundary Park, they journey east 15th in the table and only seven points above the relegation zone.
United, who beat Scunthorpe on Wednesday evening, are second with a five-point cushion between themselves and third-placed Sheffield Wednesday.
“We’re in a strong position but it’s far from comfortable,” Wilson warned. “The quality around us means that I’d much rather be in our position than not.
“We’re still trying to catch (leaders) Charlton. Until it’s mathematically impossible then we’ll continue to chase them.”
“If you had 11 Paul Dickov’s in your team then you certainly wouldn’t struggle,” added Wilson.
“He’s still cutting his teeth in management but, having spoken to Paul on a few occasions, I know he’s really enjoying it.
“Oldham will want to get a few more (points) on board but he’s doing a sterling job.”
Having heard Wilson identify winger Filipe Morais, previously of Chelsea, defender Keanu Marsh-Brown and “big Shefki Kuqi” as three of the most potent threats to United’s hopes of claiming a second straight win, Doyle said: “Oldham were very feisty at their place and we can expect the same again.
“We got the result we wanted but we had to work exceptionally hard for it because they didn’t want to take a backward step.”
With Kevin McDonald (hamstring) and Nick Montgomery (calf) both nursing injuries, Wilson must decide
whether to partner Doyle with Lee Williamson or Stephen Quinn in midfield.
Dickov, who also represented Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers and Arsenal before taking charge of Athletic two years ago, has chosen to personally ‘scout’ United in recent weeks.
His preparations have been hampered by a spate of niggling fitness concerns for his own players.
“It’s a fantastic game and a fantastic stage to go and play at,” said Dickov. “I know it’s going to be a tough game.”
Meanwhile, Jordan Slew has joined United’s League One rivals Stevenage on loan until the end of the season.