Sometimes it’s the opposition manager who can make the most telling comment – even if it deflects from his own team’s inadequacy.
“That was like a Championship performance from Sheffield United,” said Mark Robins after Scunthorpe subsided to the Blades biggest win of the season.
Doubtless there are some among United’s support (incredibly strong at a near constant 19,000) who would disagree. “That’s better” and “about time too” seemed to sum up the prevailing mood.
Not having a go here because I was also understated. “No turning of cartwheels...economic and emphatic,” was my summing up. But Robins had a point even if his freefalling side never looked remotely like taking one.
I’d wager that this United team and squad would look more comfortable in the Championship, where several have proved their worth. The problem is getting there and proving it.
While the cup conquests have been too numerous for mere coincidence, some have applied the same logic to under-performing in the league – and yes, I do think that with this pool of players United should be in touch with the top two.
But it’s never quite that simple for the bigger clubs playing below their station because they represent a cup tie nearly every week for opponents who can drag them down to the same level. Not that he should need it, Nigel Clough deserves an understanding of this from those supporters who have, ludicrously in my view, clamoured to see the back of him.
It may not be the overriding view but has still been loud enough to register with Clough himself. Why else would he, albeit laughingly in a radio interview I heard last week, express doubt that he would still be around the place to celebrate his 50th birthday at this time next year?
Such is life at a club now completing a fourth season in the third tier. Seems to me Clough is somehow taking the blame for the other three, despite fighting off a relegation threat on his arrival and building up expectations with a remarkable climb to near play-off contention.
It’s a build up of frustration that causes a loss of touch with reality. To get down to it, the Blades weren’t brilliant on Tuesday. They did the job and showed how much extra they have in their locker. Considering the finale everyone wants, it will be needed. Oh and by the way, the 4-0 was still achieved with 4-5-1, maybe showing it’s more about players’ performances than formations. And without the free-scoring Matty Done, who’s carrying a niggle.
I didn’t see the narrower win over Port Vale but, taking in the views of those who witnessed both, what a chasm of difference an effective target makes.
If ever there was a missing piece in the jigsaw then you suspect that Steven Davies, on loan from Blackpool, may have completed the puzzle.
United have looked in need of a stronger physical element in other positions too but Davies is such an effective catalyst for all the craft and guile.