Video: ‘Leave the skipper alone,’ says Sheffield United manager Adkins

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Nigel Adkins has confronted Jay McEveley’s detractors, claiming they grossly underestimate his captain’s contribution to Sheffield United’s first squad.

McEveley, the former Derby County and Blackburn Rovers centre-half, continues to divide opinion on the terraces at Bramall Lane despite featuring in 37 of the League One club’s 49 matches so far this term.

Sheffield United captain Jay McEveley is a key player for Nigel Adkins

Sheffield United captain Jay McEveley is a key player for Nigel Adkins

But Adkins, who handed McEveley the armband soon after taking charge in June, insisted the 31-year-old has been a driving force behind the improved defensive displays which sees United enter Saturday’s derby against Chesterfield searching for their fourth clean sheet in seven games.

“People might not love Jay or whatever but I’ve made him captain for a reason,” Adkins said. “He’s out there every single day on the training ground and having a left-footed player really helps.

“It means, like Bash, he can bring the ball out and play a diagonal ball. If you have a right footed player, then it can nullify that option. Jay has been playing really well and he gives us that.”

“The (back) three have all got different qualities, different attributes and, importantly, the balance of a left footed player in there and a right footed player too,” he added.”

Nigel Adkins is frustrated by criticism of his choice of captain

Nigel Adkins is frustrated by criticism of his choice of captain

Despite Adkins’ words of encouragement, McEveley faces an uncertain future in South Yorkshire with his contract set to expire at the end of the present campaign although, as The Star revealed yesterday, club officials are poised to begin the process of negotiating fresh terms with those players its manager wants to stay.

Meanwhile, academy graduates Ben Whiteman, David Brooks, Jake Wright and Jake Eastwood have signed new contracts.

Jay McEveley is expected to play his 38th game of the season when Sheffield United renew their rivalry with Chesterfield

Jay McEveley is expected to play his 38th game of the season when Sheffield United renew their rivalry with Chesterfield