Sheffield United: Manager makes an admission about his team and confidence as preparations for return to action gather pace
Confidence is no longer an issue for Sheffield United’s first team squad, manager Slavisa Jokanovic has insisted, after praising the impact the “clean minds” he was able to sign towards the end of the transfer window have made since arriving at Bramall Lane.
Speaking as his focus turns towards next weekend’s Championship game against Stoke City, the Serb claimed the arrival of on-loan players such as Robin Olsen and Morgan Gibbs-White helped address one of the biggest issues United had to overcome before being considered as genuine promotion contenders.
Jokanovic attributed his team’s poor start to the season - they entered the last international break in the relegation zone having failed to win any of their opening five league outings this term - to the hangover of being relegated from the top-flight last season.
But they entered the latest pause in the domestic fixture schedule in 14th, six points behind Queens Park Rangers who currently occupy the fourth and final play-off berth.
“It is not a question about confidence, I don’t think we are asking that or talking about that,” Jokanovic said. “We needed clean minds, people who didn’t have that experience (of being relegated), and they helped lift everyone else.
“But it is not only about them, because there are already lots of very good players here. They are players with the right ability but who needed to maybe learn to trust in that ability again.”
“We have good players here, they are why I am here,” added Jokanovic, who was appointed in May. “I tell them that because it is important they know as we try to chase the targets that we set ourselves at the beginning.”
Despite suffering back to back defeats to Middlesbrough and AFC Bournemouth earlier this month, Jokanovic remains confident his side can go on another unbeaten run when they return to action shortly. After facing City, who have made a strong start to the campaign under Michael O’Neill, United are scheduled to host Millwall before travelling to Oakwell for a derby against neighbours Barnsley.
Their results at the Riverside and Vitality Stadium ended an impressive sequence of results which saw them take 10 points out of a possible 12 during clashes with Peterborough, Preston North End, Derby County and Hull City. By scoring 12 goals in the process, United proved Jokanovic’s theory - which he put forward on numerous occasions before his employers were able to action most parts of their recruitment plan - that fresh faces would not only improve performances but also have a recuperative effect upon his longer-serving players.
“There will always be set-backs, and you must be ready for those,” he said. “But I do not have the sensation that we have taken any big backward steps. Overall, although there is always the need to improve all aspects of what you do, I feel as if the players are moving in the right direction and that, so long as we keep the right mindset and show the correct personality, that they will be rewarded for that.”