James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Why the Blades must learn the lessons of history
But please, please, please, Sheffield United, show a bit of brutality too. Because, believe it or not, you can combine both.
On the evidence of last weekend’s match at Rotherham, a crisis of identity rather than confidence appears to be the source of the visitors’ problems. Although, as they prepare for tomorrow’s League One fixture with Carlisle, manager David Weir will be actutely aware that a run of seven games without a win has inevitably eroded the latter.
United have seemingly fallen into the trap of believing that adopting strong-arm tactics when the situation demands would be an affront to their passing principles.
Think I’m wrong? Then cast your minds back to the number of inviting crosses which, six days ago, fizzed across Scott Shearer’s six yard box without being attacked by an opposition player. Or the manner in which Steve Evans’ charges effectively bullied their way to victory after the break.
So, rather than trying to find a solution on the training pitch, perhaps United should undergo some history lessons. The 1982 World Cup, lifted Italy, would be a good place to start.
Enzo Bearzot’s team, containing artists such as Bruno Conti, Marco Tardelli and the late, great Gaetano Scirea, was capable of baffling opponents into submission. But, with Claudio Gentile marshalling its defence, the Azzurri could scare the living daylights out of them too.
“Football is not for ballerinas,” the Libyan born centre-half famously remarked after nulifying Diego Maradona during a second round contest inside Barcelona’s now defunct Estadi de Sarrià. Quite.
United, without a shadow of doubt, are capable of striking the same balance between industry and invention. (Albeit on a less impressive scale).
But claims their predicament towards the foot of the table is the fault of systems, formations or any of the other tired arguments trotted-out by folk who believe repeating the analysis of their favourite television pundits transforms them into tactical genii are as misguided as they are boring.
United, quite simply, have to demonstrate the right state of mind. ‘Man-up’ as John Terry, another sporting warhorse, might say.