Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic gives his verdict on trip to Spain
His first task was to memorise everyone’s name after admitting he had made a few mistakes, when addressing members of the squad he had just inherited, at the beginning of last week.
But once that was completed, Slavisa Jokanovic immediately turned his attention towards a much more important matter - ensuring Sheffield United’s players are ready for their return to the Championship.
After spending the past seven days in Spain, the Serb and his team travelled back to England this evening for the second phase of arguably the most important pre-season programme in United’s recent history. Relegated from the Premier League last term, and with the Covid-19 pandemic still wreaking havoc with the game’s finances, Bramall Lane’s hierarchy are desperate to return to the top-flight at the first attempt. The training camp in Estepona, the Costa del Sol resort used as a summer bolt hole by many of Europe’s biggest names, was where Jokanovic hopes United have laid the foundations for a successful push for promotion.
“We are trying different things, definitely, because that is how we will see what works best for us,” the former Yugoslavia and Chelsea midfielder said, reflecting upon United’s visit overseas which includes a friendly against Europa Point of Gibraltar. “That is the part of the process we are in and it is one of the most critical parts, because it forms the base for everything else.
“Football is full of options. We all know that Sheffield United have played a certain way over the past few years and had a lot of success with it, until some recent difficulties. But overall it has clearly worked.
“But you also need to have an open mind and that is why we are checking many different things. We won’t change things just for the sake of changing them. If what worked before is going to work best now, then we will stick with it. If it doesn’t, because of where we are right now, then we won’t - no problem.”
United’s work on the Iberian peninsula has been a combination of the physical and the theoretical, as a revamped fitness and conditioning department makes its presence felt behind the scenes and Jokanovic attempts to ensure those under his command are conversant with his ideas, tactics and methods.
Although EP were more stubborn than expected, facing opponents from one of the continent’s minor leagues allowed United to run through some of the attacking moves and strategies he wants them to employ in the second tier next term without fear of being embarrassed. Upcoming games against Doncaster Rovers and Norwich City, who recently regained their elite level status following a season in the second tier, are likely to see more emphasis placed on the other end of the pitch. Jokanovic is expected to recruit at least one new defender before the transfer window closes, after appearing to lose patience with Kean Bryan and his procrastination over agreeing a fresh contract.
“There are different things we look for at every stage, different measures and things we are working towards,” Jokanovic said. “Our work (in Spain) was very important. Now it is also important that we build on that.”