When Nigel Adkins arrived at Bramall Lane, he brought with him an ideology, one that would see high-quality entertainment brought back to S2. There was a vision of dynamism. Attractive, attacking football that would lift the red and white masses from their seats.
We are yet to really see that in full effect.
That is not to say the quality of the fayre on offer hasn’t got better. I firmly believe that Sheffield United are easier on the eye than they were last season, or at least they have shown on occasion that they are capable of producing something worthy of watching and indeed enjoying.
The problem we are finding is that in this division, that alone is probably not enough. Neat and tidy football, one-touch passing and quick breaking from back to front is all well and good when teams are of a similar mindset, but when you are still seen as a scalp - and despite the fact United have been in League One so long that they have almost consolidated their position as a club of that status, they are still a big team that others raise their game for - getting the opportunity to show off the guile and flair that the team have, becomes a lot more difficult.
So when that doesn’t become an option then it’s time to dig in and get dirty.
It’s not pretty but it can certainly be effective, as seen for the most part against Barnsley before that late equaliser from Conor Hourihane and more noticably in the FA Cup victory over Oldham at at blustery Bramall Lane last week after the Blades went down to ten men following Che Adams’ red card.
That brings us to something of a quandary. Does Adkins continue to try and entertain? Does he attempt to marry the aesthetically pleasing with the physical? Or does he go all out and set the team up to battle their way back into promotion contention?
As a football fan, I go to games wanting to be blown away by drama and entertainment and excitement, brought about by skill and passion and finesse. I’m not so naive as to think that can happen in one in every five games, let alone all of them. But above all of that, victory is what a fan really craves. If the team look good while doing that, then fair enough. But when you’ve been at a place where you don’t want to be, for a lot longer than you had hoped, then you do what you have to. Against Oldham, United did what they had to do. Perhaps that’s the way forward.