Sheffield United: Why does John Fleck spend so much time inside enemy territory?

Tomorrow morning, when Paul Warne's players begin the short journey to Bramall Lane, John Fleck could quite easily ask them to give him a lift.

By James Shield
Friday, 8th March 2019, 12:55 pm
Updated Friday, 8th March 2019, 1:03 pm
Rotherham United visit Bramall Lane tomorrow: Tim Goode/PA Wire.
Rotherham United visit Bramall Lane tomorrow: Tim Goode/PA Wire.

Despite playing for Sheffield United, the midfielder's home is on the outskirts of Rotherham and the visitors' coach is likely to pass by en route.

Although the majority of his neighbours follow either Chris Wilder's side or their arch-rivals Sheffield Wednesday - "It's mainly us, a few of them" - the arrangement has provided Fleck with an in-depth understanding of South Yorkshire's footballing culture and appreciation of why United's manager last night drew parallels between the two clubs.

Sheffield United visited the AESSEAL New York Stadium in November: Nigel French/PA Wire.

"The way their manager has them playing, especially the hard work aspect, is pretty similar to ourselves," Fleck said. "It's huge for teams like us, who have not been in the division very long, and that's probably the biggest part of our game. We play some good football and have some good players. But what makes the difference, the most important thing to be honest, is that sense of togetherness and being there for each other."

United, now approaching the end of their second season in the Championship following six years in exile, enter the fixture ranked third in the table and within touching distance of second place. Rotherham, promoted from League One last term, are fighting for survival at the opposite end of the division but held Fleck and his colleagues to a 2-2 draw at the New York Stadium four months ago. Speaking after that match, which saw Jamie Proctor snatch an added time equaliser for the hosts, Wilder acknowledged United had been fortunate to escape with a point even though they led with only minutes remaining. It was a claim he repeated again earlier this week and was subsequently seconded by Fleck.

"It will be a difficult game. We went there earlier in the season  and very lucky to come away with something," he said.

"We will need to be sure we are on top of our game.

John Fleck is set to feature for Sheffield United: James Wilson/Sportimage

"We were quite lucky to get a point in that one. They are a dangerous team and probably deserved to win back then."

"It was one the games where we were quite lucky to get something out of," Fleck continued. "Looking back now, it was a good point.

"We know it will be a tough match. They are fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table and we are fighting near the top. It should be a good encounter, they have some very good players."

The meeting with Rotherham is the second of three derbies United are scheduled to contest this month, with the match coming five days after their stalemate with Wednesday and seven ahead of a huge encounter with fellow Premier League hopefuls Leeds.

Although he described the result at Hillsborough as "decent", Fleck, previously of Coventry City and Rangers, accepted it has made winning both this and Tuesday's home fixture against Brentford even more important.

"Usually throughout the season you want to perform, now it’s about results," he said.

"Against Sheffield Wednesday, it wasn’t a great spectacle, but overall it’s another point and we need to try and keep winning - especially our home games.

"We have played very good football to get ourselves in the position we have. Obviously, we want to keep playing well, but at this stage the most important thing is getting results."