What former Blade Dean Hammond makes of Sheffield United's survival hopes after Southampton defeat
As bad as things may seem for Sheffield United at the minute, there have been far more gloomy clouds looming over Bramall Lane in recent years.
Some Blades fans don't like to hear it, but it's not that long ago at all since Nigel Adkins led his United side to 11th in League One. He was promptly sacked, Christopher John Wilder was appointed and the rest, as they say, is history.
One member of that infamous Adkins squad was Dean Hammond, who signed on loan from Leicester City that season and, it's probably fair to say, didn't establish himself as a crowd favourite at Bramall Lane.
As a former Southampton skipper, he watched Sunday's game between two of his former clubs and spoke about the Blades on the official Saints podcast after the home side ran out 3-0 victors.
"In previous games they've created chances and had opportunities and just not taken them," Hammond said of Wilder's Blades, who are still looking for their first victory of the season after 12 league games.
"They didn't really have any opportunities, I don't think [Alex] McCarthy had a save to make. They had a spell at the start of the second half for 10 minutes when they won a few corners, they got into good areas and put crosses into the box and made Southampton defend, but they never really put any pressure on and I think they're playing with that fear, and without that freedom they played with last season when they were new to the Premier League and they surprised teams with their open, expansive play. With centre-halves getting into the box and both full-backs getting into the box.
"They're not playing like that this year, and you can see the pressure slowly building on them."
Worryingly for United, they have scored just five times in the league this season - including two from the penalty spot - and are already eight points away from safety after Burnley and Fulham, two of their rivals at the wrong end of the Premier League table, picked up positive results against Arsenal and Liverpool respectively on Sunday.
"You can see that belief is draining out of them, thinking: 'We're not going to score today and if we concede, we're definitely not going to win the game'," Hammond added.
"You can sense that from the players a little bit. It surprised me because they started the second half so brightly and I thought: 'Okay, this is the Sheffield United of last season and they're going to go hell for leather, and either get back in this or lose by five or six'.
"And after that 10 minute period, it just died out and you can see the confidence just isn't within that group at the minute."
Next up for the Blades is a difficult home clash against Manchester United on Thursday evening. Last season’s game at Bramall Lane saw United go 2-0 ahead, before the Red Devils hit back in a devastating spell to lead 3-2. But Oli McBurnie scored a late equaliser to secure a point for the Blades.