“A long, hard grind,” is how Nigel Adkins describes League One football, writes James Shield.
But, as his players prepare to embark upon a 46 match series to decide whether they are competing at Championship level the season after next, the Sheffield United manager has reassured supporters that Bramall Lane’s first team squad is mentally and physically prepared for the challenges ahead.
“We are looking forward to it,” Adkins said. “The build-up has been good and everyone got game-time. “The attitude and application of the players has been top drawer ever since we came in.
“There is a feel-good factor about the place. We had some good results over the summer, some of our performances have been good and our build-up work has been pleasing.
“The big thing, of course, is how we do this season but, for me, we have given ourselves an opportunity to do well.”
Adkins’ claim is based on solid evidence rather than the polished PR and positive messages every member of his profession peddle at this stage of the campaign. United completed their preparations for Saturday’s visit to Gillingham by contesting three fixtures - against Newcastle, Macclesfield Town and Hull City - in the space of eight days.
“That mirrors what we’ll have to be doing throughout the season,” Adkins continued. “It’s all part of that progression and the conditioning that we are building towards.
“It’s been promising so far and most of the players have been able to experience game-time. They’ve been involved and that’s vital because, when you put the cups into the mix, there’s a chance we are going to play a huge number of games.
“It’s not about eleven players, it’s about the group as a whole.”
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With two major domestic knockout competitions and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy squeezed into an already congested fixture programme, Adkins has used the transfer window to bolster the attacking options at his disposal. Billy Sharp and Conor Sammon, acquired from Leeds and Derby County respectively, could form a new look partnership at Priestfield but Michael Higdon, as the former Southampton and Scunthorpe chief emphasised earlier this week, has also staked a claim following an injury plagued season last term.
“We can not have enough forward options. You simply can not have too many at a football club.
“This season and next season, when they are talking about not having loan players, we have to be mindful of that.
“That’s why we are delighted, as a staff, to see people forcing us to make difficult choices. That’s the position we want to be in.”
Meanwhile, Chris Morgan has been appointed the inaugural chairman of United’s former players’ association.
Morgan, who celebrated his testimonial with a game against Newcastle last month, made nearly 300 appearances for United before joining the club’s coaching staff.
“It is a real honour to be asked to chair the committee in this, my testimonial year,” Morgan, speaking to United’s official website, said. “I make no secret of my love of Sheffield United and the pride that I have felt over the years being connected to such a historic and special club.
“It is my aim to connect players not just from the United of today and my era but from as far back as we can go. We are all part of the same family.”