SELDOM has the appointment of a new manager at Bramall Lane been met with such enthusiasm.
But that was the overwhelming reaction after it was announced that former Scunthorpe, Southampton and Reading manager Nigel Adkins starts work today on a three-year contract.
Adkins, who has won promotion from League One three times in his managerial career and took Southampton from the third tier to the Premier League in successive seasons, made it clear that promotion next May was not only the fans expectation, but his as well.
Unveiled last night at a Press conference staged at United co-owner Kevin McCabe’s Mayfair office in London, Adkins said: “All of us want to be at minimum in the Championship. We know it’s going to be a challenge because Sheffield United have been in League One now for a number of years. The expectation is going to be really high. That’s good because it is my expectation as well.”
Adkins hinted that United’s existing players will be given a chance to prove themselves but then some might be moved on.
Alongside his newly appointed staff, Andy Crosby, assistant manager, and Dean Wilkins, first-team coach, he added: “We’re going to look at everything that is in situ at the moment. If we need to improve, obviously we have got our own ideas already.
“We’ve got a history of improving the players who have been at the football club. So we’ve got a chance now to get in with the group of guys and work with them. We’ll be giving them an opportunity to improve as individuals and as a team. But throughout the season if we can get ourselves in a position to enhance the group, or maybe move people on, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Asked if he had a budget to bring players in capable of winning promotion, Adkins eluded to the large number his predecessor, Nigel Clough, had signed. “We’ve come here with the ambition to get out of the division as soon as possible but likewise we’ve got to make sure the financial side of the club is run properly,” he said.
“I’d like to think a club the size of Sheffield United will be there or thereabouts but we’re not going to get obscene amounts of money being thrown about.”
Adkins revealed that when United first approached him he believed it was a crank call. “I thought who’s this? It was actually [managing director] Mal Brannigan. I’m very proud and honoured to be offered the position. United, together, we really have an opportunity. I’ve always enjoyed coming to Bramall Lane. There’s an atmosphere. The smell of a football club. There’s always expectation but likewise that’s what I’m in football for.
“We’re really excited to join a fantastic football club with a great history, and a superb fan base. It should be an exciting year in front of us. We know League One having been there ourselves. It’s a massve challenge but we will be looking to get promoted this season.
Adkins repeated his ambition to manage once again in the top flight, which may be a worry for United should he do well in the next 12 months and put himself in the shop window.
But he also made it clear that he expects to be at the Lane for the long haul. “I want to be in the Premier League,” he said. “We have an opportunity, one stage at a time. We’re looking to be at the football club for a longer period of time than seems to be happening too often in football now.”
McCabe, who has overseen eight appointments in eight years, is also keeping everything crossed that Adkins is the man for all seasons. “He is so well qualified, mature, knows this league, the Championship as well and the Premiership,” he said. “So I think we’ve got one for a long time to come.”McCabe revealed: “I did actually make an approach for Nigel a couple of seasons ago at a time when he was not ready to come to us.
“Because I looked at Nigel two years ago as well as his track record, I spoke to those who he had worked with and he’s obviously had a very interesting background as a player in football. He played as a goalkeeper and then training to be a physiotherapist before he got into the management side, partly perchance. But in management his choice thereafter was to go one way and that was up.
“He’s coming to his biggest club now.”