Column: Nigel Adkins needs help from above at Sheffield United
Sheffield United need to do more this summer than back Nigel Adkins financially now that they appear committed to himfor next season. And that, above any other consideration, ought to be the focus of some heavily rumoured board changes.
Funding is one thing and I think the Blades have consistently supported their bosses; Adkins himself can have no complaints on that score.
But United’s hierarchy has to ask itself why then, after five years and four managers, is the club still languishing in the third tier?
Why have those managers not succeeded? Okay, a couple could certainly argue they had relative success and were harshly sacked.
Yet the question remains and the common denominator, for me, lies in the boardroom rather than the dressing room or the manager’s office.
Clearly the conditions haven’t been right and that’s about more than finance. Is it to do with the freedom and clarity of the managerial role (or lack of)?
Consistently through the years this column has heard murmurings of unease over how quickly a signing or sale can be expedited, reservations over an unwieldy recruitment and trading process that leaves a manager’s planning in limbo and can cost him a key signing.
The exception seemed to be Clough, to whom United bestowed almost total command and over whom they have voiced regrets for that very reason (even though it gained the club much progress). You suspect Adkins has been more tightly clamped. Maybe he’s been handicapped by an abrupt policy shift, the latest of far too many.
This season the words “technical board” raised their ugly head. No-one knows whether it is still in existence. Personally, I hope not. All the Blades need now is a chief executive, having operated without one for most of this season, to work with Adkins on recruitment. Preferably someone with a strong football background. No-one else need be involved once budgets are set.
The impression of the club having too many chiefs is indelible. United’s structure badly needs streamlining.
For an objective view from outside, the much respected former Rotherham boss Ronnie Moore told this column: “On United’s budget I think Nigel will be disappointed they’re not at least in the play-offs. But I do feel he’d be better with somebody working just above him, somebody to talk to about the football.
“He needs a Neil Warnock if you like, somebody he can go to and say ‘this is what we’re looking for, can you see if you can sort it?’ That, for me, is where it’s fallen down. Nigel could then concentrate on the football side of things, which would be a massive improvement.
“I know him very well and he won’t be deterred by what other people think of him.”
Albeit belatedly, and almost certainly too late, things have shaped up a bit on the field. The shape of things to come off the field is every bit as important.