People say there’s no loyalty left in football. Sheffield United and Nigel Clough might beg to differ.
Some five members of the squad share a Derby County association with their manager (a number that could be swelled) and there is no more dedicated Clough disciple than John Brayford. Let’s remember that before we rip the Blades apart over a first defeat in seven games.
That Brayford took a hefty pay cut to join United from Cardiff was, of course, the most startling aspect of an already eye-catching £1.5m transfer of a defender to a League One club. It’s still a story worth savouring... because the man who crunches the numbers is seldom, if ever, presented with a player taking less.
“It’s certainly rare in my experience,” says managing director Mal Brannigan, pointing out that the link goes deeper than Derby. “John had worked with Nigel at Burton as well at the start of his career. There are players who will play for certain managers.”
The return of the bearded, buccaneering right back, was acclaimed by fans – but this, says Brannigan, played no part. “We signed John to be at this club for a long time; not because of his popularity,” he insists.
It is easy from the outside to suspect it is Clough’s way or the highway bearing in mind the apparent freezing out of individuals. But in that he is no different to some very successful managers – Sir Alex Ferguson being the prime example – and the tight-knit atmosphere surrounding United’s squad can prove a great strength. Not least because of the Derby connection and that very precious commodity – loyalty.