Sheffield United: Refreshed Magpies await Blades

Old boy: Ex-United and England defender Keith Curle
Old boy: Ex-United and England defender Keith Curle
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A MINIMUM of one football manager every year calls for a winter break to be implemented in England.

While those rallying cries continue to fall on deaf ears, Notts County, who entertain Sheffield United on Saturday, have effectively had a mid-season interval to recharge their batteries. Four of the Magpies matches over the hectic winter period were postponed because of the bad weather, including their FA Cup second round meeting with Rotherham United.

County, managed by former United defender Keith Curle, were also scheduled to host Leyton Orient on December 22, travel to Stevenage on December 29 and take on Portsmouth last weekend. However, all the fixtures were called off because of waterlogged pitches, meaning Curle’s troops have played just once since the turn of the year, a 2-1 home defeat to Milton Keynes Dons on New Year’s Day.

Curle began his coaching career at Bramall Lane before moving into management. He was initially brought to United by Neil Warnock. The 49-year-old still has a big soft spot for the South Yorkshire club.

“I had some great times there (at United),” he said earlier this season. “It was a club I was proud to represent and I still look out for their results now.”

But there will be no room for sentiment this weekend as the Magpies look to halt a worrying run of three successive losses at Meadow Lane. You have to go back to November 24 for the last time Curle’s troops tasted success on their own patch.

Curle also has a score to settle with United. Last season, Danny Wilson’s men thumped County in their own backyard 5-2 en route to the League One play-off final.

Last September, the Magpies drew 1-1 at Bramall Lane, with Lee Hughes 76th minute strike cancelling out Dave Kitson’s opener.

But the two sides last met in mid-October when United thumped County 4-1 on their own patch courtesy of doubles from Shaun Miller and Harry Maguire.

Did you know? Curle made 61 appearances for United during a playing career which also encompassed spells with Manchester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and England.