AS STATEMENTS go it’s confusing. ‘Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has vowed to punish any member of his squad he suspects is playing for a draw during Saturday’s game at Leyton Orient’, screams The Star’s back page under the headline ‘Don’t blow it’.
United need a point in East London to secure their play-off place unless Rochdale fail to beat MK Dons at Spotland in which case the job will have been done for them. Blades correspondent James Shield reports, however, that only a win at the Matchroom Stadium will do for Clough and that individuals who shirk that target are, apparently, in big trouble.
Music to the ears of United supporters who for many months have been urging negative Nigel to adopt a more positive approach only to be repeatedly told that a point is better than nothing at all. Now here we are when a point will do nicely and Clough, apparently, is demanding three. You couldn’t make it up.
“You can’t play for a point in football,” explained Clough who has made it his life’s work this season to hang on for a single point. “It’s a dangerous thing to do and, more often than not, you end up coming unstuck.”
Has Clough been misquoted or has his medication finally had the desired effect? He adds: “We will be doing everything we can to go out and get a result. Irrespective of what goes on elsewhere.”
Ah, get a result. In football parlance that means a win. It could also mean a draw and in the very next paragraph Clough laments that his team “would be there now” if they had managed a clean sheet in the recent defeat at relegated Yeovil. That would be a draw then. No mention of what if United had won.
As for punishing individuals Clough suspects of playing for a point, well The Star’s man Shield omits to shed light on what form that may take. A fine? Extra training? Or maybe being dropped for the final match of the scheduled League programme at home to Chesterfield? We’ll never know because author Shield didn’t take the trouble to explain. In fact he never mentioned it again. Still, it made for a good intro.
Which all leads me to believe that Shield and Clough conducted the interview after several pints at the Timber Top up at Shirecliffe.