Sheffield United will benefit from eventual return of Paul Coutts

There's a vast difference between a view taken on two games than a projection across a whole season. Or at least there should be.

Wednesday, 8th August 2018, 3:48 pm
Updated Monday, 13th August 2018, 10:29 am
Paul Coutts' injury disrupted United's season

That’s where, in this age of the instant verdict, we sometimes lose the plot. Or, more precisely, fail to see shades of grey in the search for black and white. Take Sheffield United.

Take no points from two games and five goals conceded. Now take season 2016-17. One point from four games, including 0-3 at home to Southend. End result, the League One title.

Paul Coutts' injury disrupted United's season

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That won’t happen in the Championship. A budget around 17th in the division tells you that. It also suggests anything above that is relative success. But you’d still back Chris Wilder, his management team and a squad he believes to be stronger this season to achieve much more than that.

That said, while the emphasis has rightly again been on attacking the division, clearly United have to defend much better than in the opening two games. Pinpointing individual errors – and missed chances – provides both an explanation and a remedy heading to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.

I’ll be honest, though. It wasn’t just the defending that I found a touch below expectation in the opening day defeat to Swansea; for me, there was a shortfall on creativity, of clear chances, other than two missed opportunities ahead of George Baldock’s brilliantly crafted and taken goal.

But this was a measure taken against the higher standard set last season. What neither that, nor the subsequent 3-0 defeat at Middlesbrough,doesn’t mean is that United are not capable – as some dissenting voices might suggest – of hitting that standard. Or that they should be in the top six for that matter.

Actually it was encouraging last Saturday to nit-pick over a narrow defeat to a team just out of the Premier League. So this has to be the context against which criticisms are made. For instance, I thought record signing John Egan was loose in some aspects of his debut.

But that, aside from the settling in process, was largely due to him embracing the job he was brought in for. Egan has to keep passing from the back, moving out with the ball on occasion, and attempting the ambitious pass. Because that’s what his record shows he’s good at.

You feel the upfield chemistry, from the various options available, will preoccupy Wilder more. Converting the possession of a five-man midfield into ammunition for the front two has brought Mark Duffy back into the frame and also promoted Liverpool loanee Ben Woodburn.

But I doubt anything will prove more important and influential, in the long run, than the return to full training of Paul Coutts. Results show that the chemistry of the side has not been quite the same without him.