Sheffield United: 'We needed it to happen...and fast' - Enda Stevens reveals the moment when the squad threw its weight behind Slavisa Jokanovic
There is a common misconception about how footballers respond to competition, with the arrival of new players often being portrayed as something they fear and feel threatened by.
But when Slavisa Jokanovic was imploring Sheffield United’s board to up its game in the transfer market last month, Enda Stevens has told The Star that he and other long-serving members of Bramall Lane’s squad shared their new manager’s opinion - that bringing in fresh blood wasn’t only desirable, it was absolutely necessary for the club to fulfil its potential.
“It boosts the place, having new people coming in,” Stevens said, reflecting upon a window which eventually saw Conor Hourihane, Robin Olsen, Morgan Gibbs-White and Ben Davies all arrive on loan. “You want to see new faces around. We wanted to see them around as much as the manager did.
“The things is, when someone new comes in you want to get out there and work with them. They want to do well, to make a good impression, and you want to show them that you’re a good player too.
“So that’s why it’s healthy. That’s why you need that competition. If you stand still in this game, then you quickly get overtaken. It’s why people often get it wrong about the way we look at pressure and competition. It’s not something we’re bothered about. On the contrary, it’s something that we want.”
Having overcome the fitness issues which forced him to miss the start of the campaign, Stevens could make his second appearance of the season when Derby County visit South Yorkshire tomorrow after completing Tuesday’s Carabao Cup tie against Southampton. United enter the contest in encouraging form, after taking seven points from their three Championship outings since the international break.
Stevens, who celebrated his return to action with a goal during the meeting with Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side, admitted it it no surprise that, after being relegated from the Premier League last term, United only regained their poise when Hourihane, Gibbs-White and Olsen finalised their moves just before the deadline. Davies, the Liverpool centre-half, had already reported for duty while Adlene Guedioura, a free agent after leaving Al-Gharafa, agreed a 12 month contract ahead of last weekend’s win over Hull City.
“We knew, as players, that the quickest way to get over what had happened (last season) was to get a few new lads in and around the place,” Stevens, who scored against Southampton, continued. “I don’t think it’s any surprise that things have picked up now, now that has happened, because it was needed - if only to give the place a lift. We’ve already got really good players here. But sometimes, you know things need to get shaken-up a bit, just to give it a bit of a new feel. That’s what has happened and they’ve all added something.”
United travel to Middlesbrough and AFC Bournemouth following their meeting with County, who are bottom of the table on minus two points having been placed into administration earlier this week. A further deduction appears likely when the EFL concludes a separate investigation into their accounting practices, with Rooney admitting yesterday that he “probably wouldn’t” have accepted the job of becoming County’s manager had he been made fully aware of the club’s financial issues.