It can take a while to get an act together if you are Sheffield United. Three league games is no time at all.
What came before? Well, Nigel Adkins “not wanting Jamie Murphy to go” was enough for some supporters to drive an imaginary wedge between the new manager and his employers after the popular winger was sold to Brighton on the eve of the first home league game.
Less obvious, but spotted with interest by this column, was the sight of two players (Chris Basham and Neill Collins) conducting a brief but heated inquest as United’s much-discussed defence endured an early creak or two early in that clash with Chesterfield.
But this was almost as welcome a spectacle as the two Che Adams goals, and the impressive full debuts of Conor Sammon and David Edgar, that contributed so much to an ultimately fortifying 2-0 victory.
As for the Murphy business, well, it’s just football in League One – or any other level below the elite. So was the reaction. Who wants to lose one of your best players? And Murphy was certainly one of those. Not the fans who howled into the night. Not the manager either.
But Adkins referred to clubs “running as a business” when I asked him about it after the game. And to “building for the future.” I think there was an element of both in this transfer which explains why your correspondent won’t be adding to his recent criticisms of the club.
Giving Adams his head was one of those spin-offs, happily demonstrated right on cue by a young player with the explosive potential to be a regular match winner. Pocketing a tidy fee, a minimum £1.5m, was another. And let’s not forget United’s earlier investment in Billy Sharp, plus Sammon and Martyn Woolford. Or the fact that this is a third tier club with a big squad that badly needs thinning – but one which again has the power to invest.
What was Adkins to say? That he wanted a good player to go? He was always going to opt for the ideal world, knowing all along that only a handful of managers actually operate in one. The other bottom line question is this: how do you reasonably stop a player jumping a level for a four-year contract on much improved terms with a chance to fulfil a burning ambition to play for Scotland?
So it has to be realism all round on this one and, for what it’s worth, I think the deal can benefit all parties because Murphy was no give-away. Vital, though, that the Blades then drew a line under it on the field on a day when the supporters caught exactly the same mood.
Edgar was a bulwark at the back, Sammon led the line well and laid on both goals, Sharp suggested he’ll get in on the act soon and the side as a whole, stretched at times, “can and will play better” according to their manager.
All good signs along with a commanding display from recalled keeper Mark Howard and the follow-up of a 3-1 victory cruise at Peterborough.
After 0-4 at Gillingham on opening day, the season has started.