Let’s keep it real. It’s all about winning promotion next season and Nigel Adkins is the man with the record.
So this column endorses Sheffield United’s choice of new manager as emphatically as it condemned Nigel Clough’s sacking. And it’s only fair to shout that out, having also championed Adkins as the stand-out candidate in last week’s article criticising the club’s managerial record.
He’ll be under no illusions about what’s required so we all know where we stand, including all those backing the appointment. The cheerleaders - this writer included - need to remember that support if there’s a wobble or two along the way. Or if it all goes wrong. In which case we will be as wrong as the board.
The worry is about how you define “going wrong” and how soon. Clough was a popular enough choice. So, too, Adkins with hardly a dissenting voice on social media. And let’s not forget how the changing tide of opinion helped sweep him into the job by washing his predecessor overboard.
It can be dangerous for clubs to ride that wave in either direction. Football is such a fickle game that a successful boss can become a failure in an instant and vice versa (in the rare event of him being given turnaround time).
Bramall Lane’s hierarchy clearly feel they don’t have moments to spare so, rightly or wrongly, instant it has to be. Regardless of the contractual terms and whatever is said, you’d be foolish to think whoever took charge could be sure of more than one go at this.
But Adkins, with a more relevant record than Clough’s, has a better chance than most, a round peg in a round hole with four promotions to his name. Pertinently, three of those have been from the third tier, two with Scunthorpe and then another to trigger his double bounce into the Premier League with Southampton where he was harshly sacked.
Finances were undoubtedly on his side at St. Mary’s but, having re-floated a club of similar size to the Blades, the former goalkeeper-turned-physio looks a near perfect fit. I’d add to that his attributes as a humble man who is much liked and admired within the game.
Adkins is unpretentious and, crucially for me, not so proud that he would have to put his own stamp on United’s squad without considering the considerable quality within it. The last thing United needed this summer was a boat-rocker.
I’m as convinced as Clough that, barring a few key additions, most of the pieces are in place. While United will again carry a high budget in League One terms, logic suggests much of the expenditure required has already been made.
There will also be some savings because the squad is top heavy and needs trimming. Adkins ticks all the boxes, not least because he has also proved highly effective on low budgets, as at Scunthorpe. Allowing for the disappointment of a brief and unfulfilled reign at Reading, United have chosen as well as they could have done in the circumstances. Surely he’s worth at least two seasons? Let’s hope the second of those is in the Championship!