On Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after their defeat by Bury, Sheffield United’s players arrived at the Redtooth Academy to dissect events against David Flitcroft’s side.
Weekend debriefs, during a time slot generally reserved for major rollickings, are a commonplace since Nigel Adkins’ appointment as manager. Win, lose or draw.
“On Saturday night, I watched the game back on DVD as I always do and put a few clips together,” he said. “Then, we came back in on Sunday as a group, the guys who had been involved, and reviewed it.
“The scoreline was a poor one and, yes, that ultimately what counts. But we also did many things well.
“We talked about what had happened, went through certain situations on the analysis board, and picked-out five positives and a negative as we always do. Then, we drew a red line under everything and move on to the next game.”
United return to action when Colchester visit Bramall Lane this evening for a fixture which had initially been scheduled to take place 10 days ago before being postponed due to international call-ups. Adkins’ revelation about working practices behind the scenes, made during yesterday’s pre-match press conference, provided a fascinating insight into a regime which, after establishing a leadership committee and a rota of one-to-meetings, is not afraid to defy convention. Likewise the former Scunthorpe and Southampton chief’s comments about the value of introspection.
“The first thing I always do is reflect on myself because I think that’s important. The team I picked, the tactics we used and were the substitutions right? We’re doing that all the time.
“Let me give you an example. Jamal Campbell-Ryce had done really well for us, he was a massive threat for us but could we have left him on for another 10 minutes? The information I had, about what he’d done during the course of the week and the loading on his body, was a factor in taking him off. Then again, Ryan Flynn came on and was also a major threat with his movement and trickery.
“It’s a balancing act but we make the decisions that we think are right at the time. I didn’t want a point, I wanted all three.”
“We also moved Conor (Sammon) out to the right to bring another striker in Marc McNulty on,” Adkins continued. “Was that the right thing to do? These are the type of things that I reflect on.
“It always starts with yourself and that’s important. We want honesty and you are allowed to make mistakes. That’s the culture we are trying to build here. Everyone at this club works exceptionally hard, not just the players. That’s the ethic we have because we all want to get to the highest level.
“We want people to be able to express themselves and talk about things. But, make no mistake, it’s done within the right structure and they know that, as manager, I have the final word. We demand a lot and work the players hard, don’t worry about that.”
Adkins’ methods might be viewed as unusual in some quarters but, as results following his arrival during the close season demonstrate, they are mightily effective. United, who could recall Jose Baxter following suspension, will climb to third in the table if they defeat a Colchester team which, despite still searching for its first win of the new campaign, command huge respect inside the Bramall Lane bootroom.
“Every opponent deserves that,” Adkins said. “Yes, we want to impose ourselves on people because we have some very, very good players here. But, if you don’t show people the right respect then you can guarantee that you will come unstuck.
“I’m not saying this is what happened (against Bury) because it wasn’t. Not for one minute. We’ve got a great honest and professional bunch of lads here. But if we start thinking, ‘it’s only Colchester, we’ll turn them over,’ then we won’t perform as we can. That’s guaranteed.”
“They’ve brought some very good players in, some experienced player recently, and because of that they carry a much bigger goal threat than perhaps they did before,” Adkins added. “People like Marvin Sordell and the experience of someone like Owen Garvan in the middle.
“So, yes, while we are mindful of what they can do, why Colchester deserve our respect, we are also aware of what we can do to cause them problems.”
United, as Adkins explained, viewed footage of Colchester’s draw with Chesterfield yesterday morning before coaching staff began assessing whether to reshuffle the options at their disposal following a disappointing but not disastrous outcome against Bury.
“The lads who hadn’t been involved in our last one had a really hard session so we are all on a level, physically, as a group,” Adkins said. “We were bright today (on Monday) and looked at our review for Colchester.
“We go very big on attention to detail. So, when the lads cross that white line, they have the confidence and the belief to go out there and express themselves as we know they are capable of doing because they’re very good players themselves.”