Sheffield United: The pitfalls on the fixture schedule some people might miss
Any path towards promotion is littered with pitfalls but, after guiding both Watford and Fulham out of the Championship, Slavia Jokanovic has shown he can avoid most of the traps standing between Sheffield United and an immediate return to the Premier League.
Some are obvious, including games against West Bromwich Albion and his former club Fulham who were also relegated from the top-flight last term. Others are not, and often it is those which catch-out the teams who are hoping to power through the division.
It is impossible to predict exactly how the season will unfold. Injuries, illness and unexpected losses of individual form can all make fixtures which initially might appear as routine as possible on paper suddenly become tests of character, commitment and a manager’s ability to craft something which resembles a decent starting eleven out of a couple of academy prospects and undercooked pro’s.
But some games and periods of the campaign will be difficult no matter what, particularly those over Christmas when United are scheduled to play four times in 15 days.
The dates Jokanovic is likely to be most wary of, however, fall around the international calendar.
As one of the Championship’s highest profile teams, United can expect to see a number of their players whisked away by their respective countries when the race for Qatar resumes in September. That means preparations for games against Peterborough United in September, Stoke City a month later and then November’s home fixture against Coventry City are going to be limited - something Jokanovic could well do without as he looks to impose his ideas and theories upon United’s squad.
Inevitably, those set to be on World Cup qualification duty are among some of the best at the Serb’s disposal and will be pivotal figures in the game plan he has spent the past six or so weeks devising.
The outcome of derbies are also always notoriously difficult to predict, and United will contest one - against their neighbours Barnsley - on March 19, when they hope to be jockeying for position in the upper echelons of the division.
Former United manager Neil Warnmock will also ensure his Middlesbrough side are revved-up for United’s appearance on Teesside at the end of September.