Sheffield United: On-loan Liverpool defender Ben Davies reveals the real secret behind The Blades' turnaround ahead of their visit to Middlesbrough
Ben Davies believes Slavisa Jokanovic’s decision to shield his players from the pressure which was building around the club at the beginning of the season is responsible for its upturn in results since the international break.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s visit to Middlesbrough, where United hope to stretch their unbeaten run to six Championship games, the on-loan defender admitted confidence is growing among Bramall Lane’s first team squad that they can claw back the seven point gap separating them from the automatic promotion positions.
Conceding United gave rivals such as West Bromwich Albion and AFC Bournemouth a “head start” after failing to win any of their first five matches under Jokanovic, Davies said: “The ideas he has about playing football are great but, for me, the big thing about the manager is how he really takes the pressure off his teams and allows you to play with freedom.
“No matter what is going on, he has that way of making you feel very relaxed.”
Although Jokanovic admitted he was dissatisfied with aspects of United’s performance during last weekend’s win over Derby County, he acknowledged it could be a significant moment in their psychological development because victory was achieved “even though we didn’t play so well.”
Davies, who is scheduled to rejoin Liverpool next summer, tasted defeat on his debut for the club when Huddersfield Town triumphed at Bramall Lane last month. However, United have lost only once in all competitions since then - with Southampton requiring a penalty shoot out to knock them out of a Carabao Cup a week ago.
Appointed in May, during the aftermath of United’s relegation from the Premier League, Jokanovic did not officially start work until July when his contract with Qatari outfit Al-Gharafa expired.
Many observers, including the Serb himself, have attributed United’s poor start to the mental scars they suffered during that demotion from the top-flight.
But Davies has a different theory, insisting it was inevitable the transition from life under former manager Chris Wilder would take time, saying: “I personally think the turnaround is down to the fact we have a very good manager with really good ideas. But those ideas are very different to the ones that were embedded. That turnaround was always going to take time, but now we are really getting it.”