Alan Biggs: Nigel Adkins is the architect of Sheffield United’s future

by Pete McKee
by Pete McKee
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Colleagues who have watched Sheffield United regularly reckon that, slowly but surely, things are coming together.

If so, it needs to be quick and and convincing from this pivotal point of the season.

Blades manager Nigel Adkins

Blades manager Nigel Adkins

Beat Swindon at Bramall Lane on Saturday and the Blades could break into the top six. Not that I detect too much focus on the dreaded play-offs. Second placed Walsall 12 points in front, two behind Nigel Clough’s table-topping Burton, has to be still the target. But for it to remain realistic United need a surge going into a week that takes them to Blackpool and Bury.

One week and nine points can change a lot. While there may not have been enough in performances to suggest such a run, it is an aim Nigel Adkins and his players will cling to while ever there is a chance.

Another table that caught my eye this week came from the League Managers Association.

It was predictably depressing, revealing the highest recorded number of sackings in the first half of a season (29) and showing the average tenure of all current managers to be just 18 months.

But what won’t have leapt from the statistical debris is that, up to the turn of the year, dismissals in League One were down by 50% (from 12 to 6).

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Of course, we’ve since seen Mark Robins fired by Scunthorpe and it may just be a freakish phase - yet, for now, the third tier is the safest place in which to be a football manager.

Blades bosses have never had cause to feel such relative security amid a five-year exile from the Championship but I do believe the message is sinking in now that constant managerial changes are no solution.

Perhaps the most graphic illustration of that came in a third league table I clocked this week. Arsene Wenger is not only the longest serving current boss with more than 19 years at Arsenal but he also leads the way for most games managed – 1,095. Now who do you think is in second place? Yes, on 1,015 we have Danny Wilson, for me the harshest victim of United’s impatience and still doing his stuff after an impressive start at Chesterfield.

So all the more reason for the Blades hierarchy to be thankful, as I know they are, for having a man of Adkins’ proven experience and expertise at the helm. Yes, it’s been a more frustrating and exacting task than he can have expected with much work to be done on reshaping a bloated squad, but his record bears the closest scrutiny at a time when more than a quarter of this season’s sacking casualties (8 out of 29) were first-timers in the job.

Across 553 games with five clubs, and several promotions, Adkins has a win ratio of 48.46%.

You don’t toss away that sort of record lightly. While the urgency of the top half of this article still holds true, it’s healthy to remove managerial uncertainty from the equation. And if more clubs came to the same conclusion the game would be the better for it.