This season’s race for League One play-off qualification is, by general consensus, the toughest in years, writes James Shield.
The battle to seize control of the stereo inside Sheffield United’s dressing room has been every bit as fierce.
“I had a little bit more influence over what went on it at Rochdale,” Matt Done, who joined Nigel Clough’s side during the recent transfer window, said. “It was more of a Manchester scene over there as you’d probably expect.
“We’ve got quite a few Scottish lads here and so there’s lots of Rangers and Celtic songs played.
“That usually causes quite a few arguments between them all and some of the lyrics, well, I’d better not repeat them. They like to give each other a bit of stick.”
Done staked his claim to become Bramall Lane’s resident DJ by selecting three songs, including ‘Waterfall’ and ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, to be broadcast over the stadium’s public address system before the victory over Doncaster Rovers 10 days ago. The case he has presented for a regular berth in United’s starting eleven has been even more compelling after being prised away from Spotland before February’s deadline for permanent signings.
Done might be a big noise on the pitch. But, as he explained during a break in training at the club’s Redtooth Academy complex, off it he prefers to keep things low ley.
“I like a bit of music but, to be honest, I’m not a big one for talking before a game.
“Everybody is different. Some of the lads are loud whereas others just prefer to sit back and have a coffee.
“I prefer just to do some stretching and keep myself to myself. Focus on what is ahead and what I want to do.”
Clough, whose side enter tomorrow’s game against Bradford City fifth in the table following Tuesday’s defeat at Yeovil Town, has made no attempt to disguise his suspicion of coaches who issue their charges with complex tactical briefs. Better, the United manager believes, to let defenders defend, midfielders tackle and attackers score goals rather than blind them with pseudo science. There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule.
Done, whose ability to perform a variety of different roles convinced Clough to invest a significant portion of his recruitment budget in the 26-year-old’s services, has netted seven times in 15 outings since swapping Spotland for South Yorkshire. A goals per game ratio which, at this pivotal stage of the campaign, is better than Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez.
“I don’t mind if I score, win penalties, create goals or whatever,” Done said. “Just so long as we get promoted.
“I came towards the end of January and, even though I had a little niggle, I’d been playing and scoring at Rochdale.
“To be honest, in terms of the games themselves, it’s not much different. It’s the same division after all.
“The biggest difference is the club. Infrastructure wise, here, it’s on a different planet. But I’m not fazed by that because, if I was, I shouldn’t have come here.”
Pressure, especially after four seasons in the third tier of English football, is a constant companion for United’s first team squad and, as the play-offs beckon, it is set to increase by several bars.
“There’s always nerves before a game but you can use them,” Done said. “Boxers always say it’s good to have butterflies and I agree.
“If they weren’t there, then you’d probably worry. You can use them in the game.
“They’re positive. They tell you something is at stake and so that’s why I think they’re a good thing.”
Pressure also, as Done know full well following his recent musical explorations, can come from one’s peers.
“I got a little bit of credit for my picks from a few of the lads and that,” he said. “I’ve never been one for dance music and so I didn’t bother with any of that when I was asked to choose some songs.
“I looked over when Maggie May came on to where my mum usually sits but I don’t think she was here.”