Sheffield United: Stuart McCall makes it his personal mission to help Bramall Lane midfielder get back to his best

Whether he already suspected a change was in the offing or if it was purely out of interest in a forthcoming opponent but Stuart McCall, Sheffield United’s new assistant manager, made it his business to watch John Fleck’s performance in front of the media ahead of Blackpool’s visit to Bramall Lane last month.

Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 11:45 am

And what McCall witnessed, as Fleck paid tribute to the late, great Walter Smith who had died three days earlier, convinced him this was a player not only mourning the passing of his former mentor but also one lacking self-belief following a series of indifferent performances.

“I saw Flecky, I listened to him talking about everything and also about how he was playing himself and I thought ‘This is a lad lacking a little bit of confidence,’” McCall said, during his first public interview since rejoining United last week. “You could tell when he was admitting his game had been a little bit ‘in and out’ so hopefully that’s something we’ll be able to get sorted and put right when he gets back with the group.”

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John Fleck in action for Sheffield United against his former club Coventry City at Bramall Lane: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

A former Rangers and Scotland midfielder himself, McCall is ready to devote a great deal of time and energy into helping Fleck rediscover his poise following a chequered start to the campaign. The reason behind the 30-year-old’s lack of conviction maybe became apparent last week when, 48 hours before McCall left Bloomfield Road to become Paul Heckingbottom’s number two following Slavisa Jokanovic’s sacking, Fleck suffered a seizure on the pitch during the Serb’s final game in charge - a 1-0 victory over Reading at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.

Fleck was withdrawn during the closing stages of Blackpool’s win in South Yorkshire a month ago, as United unsuccessfully chased an equaliser following Keshi Anderson’s late strike.

But McCall sounded confident he will be back and firing on all cylinders soon, saying: “He’s a top drawer player and another old Rangers boy too, so that’s good enough for me.

Paul Heckingbottom and Stuart McCall direct the players during the Sky Bet Championship match at Bramall Lane against Bristol City: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“Seriously, he’ll get back to it. There’s no doubt about that. We’re looking forward to seeing him out there again, and hopefully it won't be too long now."

Oli McBurnie replaces John Fleck towards the end of Sheffield, United's defeat by Blackpool: Simon Bellis/ Sportimage