Sheffield United: 'I'm not interested in talking about age' admits Slavisa Jokanovic, as he tells Bramall Lane's young stars to speak up
With the arrival of Adlene Guedioura and Conor Hourihane at Sheffield United coinciding with the breakthrough moment of Iliman Ndiaye’s career, much of the conversation during Slavisa Jokanovic’s recent media conferences has focused on the influence senior players can exert upon their younger colleagues.
But as Jokanovic told The Star before Saturday’s game against Derby County, which could see Ndiaye make his fifth appearance of the season after catching the manager’s eye, the 21-year-old and his contemporaries have a responsibility to reciprocate. Indeed, speaking ahead of the meeting with Wayne Rooney’s side, Jokanovic warned United’s squad is unlikely to realise its potential unless there is a “two way” exchange of knowledge and ideas,
“This is what collaboration is,” the Serb said, confirming his desire to encourage members of his team to express themselves extends beyond the football pitch. “This is what you need to be successful, you need to collaborate. You need to share everything that you can.
“We have a lot of people here, like Conor, like Adlene, like Oli (Norwood), like Billy (Sharp) and Flecky (John Fleck) who have so much experience and things that they can pass on to those who are just coming through.
“From another side, we have guys who are in their first few weeks of competition. They can bring things to help and support the older guys. There are things that young players can do that older players can’t.”
“I am not really interested in talking about jobs for guys who are 17 or 36, if you understand my meaning,” he added. “Because we are one group, working together and trying to find the right balance.
“There are things the guys who have been around a long time, or who have a lot of games and battles behind them, can pass on to those who haven’t. And there are things the younger ones can pass on to them and help them with. It is a two way process. It is vital to have that, not think only about age.”
The emergence of Ndiaye - after Jokanovic helped broker a peace between the Frenchman and those members of the hierarchy arguing he should not be considered for selection until agreeing a new contract - has been the story of United’s campaign so far. After being brought back in from the cold during August’s Carabao Cup clash with County, Ndiaye scored twice on his full debut as Peterborough were dispatched 6-2. After also starting the draw with Preston North End, Ndiaye was rested for United’s 3-1 victory over Hull City but returned to the eleven when Southampton visited South Yorkshire in the CC earlier this week. He signed a new long-term deal with United midway through the international break.
“I still think we can trust ourselves even more,” Jokanovic insisted, despite praising the upturn in both performances and results since then. “We can still do more, even though we are having more good moments and situations and the sensation when we talk about the team is much more positive.
“I still don’t think we trust in our own ability enough, or as much as we should do. When that happens, and everyone here can be a part of that process, I feel it will be a really important step forward for us.”