They might not top many player of the year polls and much of their work, Nigel Adkins acknowledged last night, is only recognised behind the scenes.
But, as he prepares to oversee a comprehensive review of the League One club’s performances this season, Sheffield United’s manager paid a very public tribute to Dean Hammond, Chris Basham and the other “unsung heroes” of his team.
“Some of the lads, even those who haven’t been in the starting eleven lately, have been absolutely exemplary professionals,” he said. “They’ve helped everybody else in the group. Dean is a prime example of that.
“I know people go on about it but younger players in particular need role models because hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard. If you have people with talent who understand how to work hard then they, we, have got more chance of getting to the highest level. We want to give the players that viewpoint. Standards work.”
With Hammond set to become a free agent this summer when his contract with Leicester City expires, Adkins’ words represent a pre-emptive strike against critics of the on-loan midfielder’s contribution since arriving from the Premier League leaders in October. Particularly given his admission that Hammond, aged 33, splits opinion on the terraces at Bramall Lane.
Adkins, together with senior members of his coaching staff, have made no attempt to challenge claims they are keen to retain the former Southampton captain’s services although Hammond would be forced to accept a drastic wage reduction as United brace themselves for another season in the third tier.
“I talk about Dean for a reason,” Adkins continued. “As I’m sure the people at Leicester City did too. Dean is on the training ground every single day. Chris Basham is out there every single day. They do all the little bits in the gym. They don’t have to be told, they just do. It’s about extracting the maximum from your potential.”
Adkins, who plans to widen “the pathway” between United’s senior squad and the academy next term, has also spoken extensively about his desire for “robust” players capable of making “around 40 appearances” every season. Hammond and Basham have missed a only seven matches this season having originally been eligible for a combined total of 87 fixtures in all competitions.
“There are unsung heroes in the team,” Adkins added. “Players who sacrifice themselves for the cause and are ready to do the ugly stuff. They’re happy to make others look good, not themselves and you need that. You need that in every team and they do it ever so well too. It’s important they don’t get overlooked.”