Danny Hall’s Blades column: ‘Player-whisperer’ Adkins’ results show his methods are effective

Nigel Adkins, manager of Sheffield United
Nigel Adkins, manager of Sheffield United
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What’s the biggest room in your house? If your first thought was ‘living room’, congratulations - you’re on the same lines as yours truly, my colleague from Radio Sheffield, Jonny Buchan, and most of the Western world.

Not in Nigel Adkins’ house, though. As you’ll read elsewhere on these pages - or may have heard already, through the power of social media - the Sheffield United manager believes the Room for Improvement triumphs over any other, in terms of size or importance.

It’s easy to scoff - after all, sometimes slinking off to the kitchen seems a damn sight more appealing, and practical, than a trip to the room of self-improvement and drive - but who can knock Adkins’ track record, with promotion after promotion on his CV?

Management is all about results and if cringeworthy jokes and embarassing dances delivered promotions, then we’d no doubt see David Brent clones springing up in dugouts all around the country. It’s important to stress that Adkins, with degrees and diplomas in physiotherapy and psychology, is no Brent.

But, as a former physio, he places importance on both body and mind; a man-management style honed in Scunthorpe’s treatment room, where players would visit with non-existant niggles to get out of the firing line. Some were drinking; others just frustrated.

Ian Baraclough, a former Scunthorpe defender treated by Adkins before joining his coaching staff, said: “As a physio, it’s not just the knowledge of human anatomy. You’re also a father figure, you’re a manager, a psychologist, a social worker: you’re everything that players need. Being a physio was a perfect grounding for Nigel - he could see certain situations as they were building.

“He could speak to players in a certain way so that they would feel strong coming out of the room. He did it with me as a player as well. It’s his whole manner: his demeanour is probably welcoming to everybody, nobody is made to feel isolated.”

That even applies to journalists - and feeling welcome as a journalist is about as rare a feeling as you get.

Baraclough describes Adkins as the ‘player whisperer’ and with four English promotions on his résumé, including three from United’s current division, who are we to argue?