Nigel Adkins has told his players they must be prepared to win ‘by any means necessary’ or resign themselves to another season in League One.
The Sheffield United manager’s warning, issued ahead of Saturday’s game against Scunthorpe, provides further evidence he is prepared to sacrifice some of his attacking principles and adopt a more conservative, pragmatic approach following last weekend’s hard-fought victory over Coventry City.
Citing discipline, both in a personal and tactical sense, as the key to success at Glanford Park, Adkins said: “The next game is always key. That and working hard to implement a game plan. Being solid, resolute and committed. We need to win games of football. How we do that, people will have to wait and see. The important thing is that we go out there and win it.”
Although United’s bold but inherently risk-laden methods proved successful during the early days of Adkins’ reign - they won five of his first seven fixtures at the helm after being appointed in June - Sunday’s success was the club’s first in the competition since mid-October. The result, which lifted United from 12th to 11th in the table, signalled the end of City’s four match unbeaten run.
But, from a home perspective at least was even more notable for the manner in which it was achieved with Adkins underlining the importance of keeping a clean sheet rather than trying to overwhelm Tony Mowbray’s team with a flurry of goals.
“Yes, we want to be attack-minded,” Adkins continued. “Especially when we are at home. We’ve been punished for that at times though when the others have scored a wonder goal on the break or something similar. Sometimes you have to stay solid and decide that, while it’s still important to get forward, you are also going to make sure you keep a clean sheet. I say that because, with the attacking players we’ve got here, I’ll always back us to score. We always create those opportunities.”
Despite trailing second-placed City by nine points, Adkins returns to the club where he achieved two promotions at the start of his managerial career in the Football League knowing only four clubs, including their most recent opponents, have scored more goals than United in the competition so far this term. Defensively, however, only nine clubs boast a higher average when it comes to the number of goals conceded per game.
“We had a plan to restrict Coventry,” he said. “We didn’t want it to be the type of game they wanted but, equally, we always put the emphasis on what we are trying to do. Keep the balance in our favour.
“It’s important to focus on playing to our strengths.”