Sheffield United: Manager makes a confession about promotion as Stoke City clash beckons

Slavisa Jokanovic has admitted Sheffield United must be ready to make significant improvements when they return to action following the international break, warning that ‘arrogantly’ assuming they will challenge for promotion risks condemning them to another season in the Championship.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 4:00 am

The Serb, whose side face Stoke City this weekend, insisted his team was beginning to take shape before the break in the fixture schedule despite its recent set-backs against Middlesbrough and AFC Bournemouth.

Although he believes the players he inherited after taking charge following United’s relegation from the Premier League last term are good enough to go up, particularly after the recent additions of “clean minds” such as Morgan Gibbs-White and Ben Davies on loan, Jokanovic admitted: “We can not be arrogant. We can not trust people who tell us this will be easy. It will never be easy. Nothing in football or in life is easy.

“What we are doing now is not enough to be fighting for the target we want to be fighting for. We have taken some good steps forward and shown some big improvements. But we must never stop fighting and we must never give up and we must, if we want to do what we talked about at the beginning, look to get better at everything that we do.”

Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“That is the attitude you must have,” he added. “That is the personality and the desire you must show.”

Although United were well beaten at the Riverside Stadium, a result which ended their five match unbeaten run in the competition, Jokanovic felt their performance during a controversial encounter on the south coast confirmed his squad is now not only over the hangover of being demoted but also equipped to secure a top six finish. Facing opponents also tipped to push for promotion, United took the lead through Gibbs-White before goals from Dominic Solanke and Philip Billing propelled Scot Parker’s men to the summit of the table. United, who finished the afternoon in 14th, felt neither of the hosts’ goals should have stood, with Solanke being fouled outside of the penalty box before converting for the squad and Jokanovic claiming an offside flag should have been raised when Billing fired home.

United are monitoring George Baldock’s fitness ahead of the meeting with fourth-placed City after he limped-out of the game against Bournemouth with a suspected hamstring complaint. Jokanovic is also set to provide an update on Sander Berge when he faces the media today. The Norwegian withdrew from last month’s victory over Hull City after suffering an injury during the warm-up and has not featured since.

“It is not just about the new faces, the clean minds, it is also about the players who have been here a long time doing it too, which they have been,” Jokanovic said. “We are in a process, and we are moving forward, but we must still show the fight and the mentality to keep going in that direction.

Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

"We must look to get better at everything. Every single one of us.”

Sheffield United want to return to winning ways: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Slavisa Jokanovic is preparing his team to face Stoke City this weekend: Simon Bellis / Sportimage