Sheffield United: Suffo speaks-out

Patrick Suffo (centre) played for both Sheffield United and Coventry City
Patrick Suffo (centre) played for both Sheffield United and Coventry City
Share this article
Have your say

It should be the most exciting fixture on his League One calendar, writes James Shield.

But, for Patrick Suffo, Sunday’s meeting between Coventry City and Sheffield United will be tinged with sadness.

The Olympic gold medallist, who represented both during a successful career spanning six different countries and 14 clubs, admitted last night the idea of watching them scrabble for position towards the foot of the table is simply too much to bear.

“It hurts to see them in this division,” he told The Star. “It’s not nice at all and very surprising, especially for a team of Sheffield United’s stature.

“But I suppose that it just goes to show that you can’t take anything for granted in football. Nothing at all.”

Much has changed in the 13 years since Suffo arrived at Bramall Lane. Neil Warnock, the manager responsible for orchestrating his move, charged the former Cameroon international with the task of firing United out of the Championship and into the top-flight.

Suffo, who subsequently helped Cameroon triumph at the Sydney Games, departed two seasons later having failed to achieve that aim. But the combative centre-forward, who subsequently joined City following spells with Numancia and Al-Hilal, acknowledged United were still in a much better place than now.

“United have lost too many games this season and are not in a good position in the table,” Suffo continued. “That is even more surprising.

“So what do you do? As a player, you have to fight and be ready to fight hard. Take responsibility for yourself and not expect someone else to do that for you.

“You have to look in the mirror and ask if you are giving everything you can. Then go out there and do it because, what I always find, is that if you do that then the people around you are more likely to do the same.

“That way is much better than pointing the finger and going about things in a negative way. Technically, this league might not be so good but, because of that, you are expected to make up the difference with effort.”

“What happened with us (Cameroon) at the Olympics showed how important that drive is,” Suffo, who won 29 caps for the Indomitable Lions, said. “In the quarter-finals we played a Brazil team with Ronaldinho in it, were reduced to nine men and still won the game.

“We might not have been the best team over there technically or even tactically. But we had heart because we had grown-up together through the age groups.”

While United’s problems have been caused by chequered performances, City’s are a result of political wrangling behind the scenes. Docked 10 points earlier this summer after entering administration - again - their 56th meeting with the visitors from Yorkshire takes place in Northampton following parent company Sisu’s dispute with the owners of the Ricoh Arena.

Earlier this week Owners Otium, a Sisu-related firm, faced criticism for filing overdue accounts.

Suffo, who lent tacit backing to supporters’ group the Sky Blues Trust by taking part in a ‘City Legends’ exhibition designed to coincide with the first-team’s debut at Sixfields, said: “How is it possible for Coventry not to be playing in Coventry, the city it represents? It all seems very strange to me. Not quite right.”

Despite events off the pitch, City are nevertheless in sterling shape on it. Having won five of their last 10 games, Steven Pressley’s side are 18th; four positions above David Weir’s which travels south searching for a first victory since August.

Strikers Leon Clarke and Callum Wilson, who both featured on United’s radar during the transfer window, have been the driving force behind City’s impressive form, scoring a combined total of 15 goals this term. Indeed, but for their recent punishment, last weekend’s win over Stevenage would have seen Pressley’s team climb to seventh.

“I wish United and Coventry all the best,” Suffo said. “I hope both do well.”

*Twitter: @JamesShield1