NIGEL ADKINS knows all about how to win friends and influence people. This week he went a step further by embracing Brian the Blade.
Brian's dulcet tones are familar to listeners of BBC Radio Sheffield's Football Heaven. A regular contributor to the six-night-a-week phone-in programme Brian has become a living South Yorkshire legend.
He has seen off Sheffield United managers Neil Warnock, Bryan Robson, Kevin Blackwell, Gary Speed, Micky Adams, Danny Wilson, David Weir and Nigel Clough. During their years in office Brian has done his best to explain the error of their ways. Frustratingly, all to no avail. You can hear an encounter with Clough by clicking on the link below.
Along the way United have gone from bad to worse. Listeners have lost count of the number of times that Brian has called in to report "that was the worst peformance I've ever seen." Managers are clueless, players have not got the brains they were born with.
Even Football Heaven's very own presenters – and he's seen a few of those off as well in the shapes of Luke Wileman, Seth Bennett and Paul Walker – have come under fire for their 'bias', refusal to accept the blindingly obvious and readiness to defend the sitting duck. Wileman fled to Toronto in order to escape Brian's wrath.
Now Adkins has moved into Brian's telescopic sight although he has yet to go public. South Yorkshire holds its collective breath. Except Nigel has made the first move to wrongfoot the ebullient Blade who is always ready to share his knowledge.
After being informed about the king of the airwaves, Adkins said during last night's Football Heaven managers' special: "You mention Brian the Blade. He wants the best for Sheffield United Football Club."
I realise most of what Brian says doesn't stand up to scrutiny, but there is a point to recounting this. Most managers, once made aware of the beast at large, would and have instantly dismissed our Brian. As does his audience. Some find him mildly amusing, most irritating and I dare say the programme has lost a few listeners because of him.
It may have been a throw-away line from United's new manager, but it is consistent and sheds more light on what is happening behind closed doors at Bramall Lane.
United together has been Adkins' buzz phrase since arriving at the club. From the tea lady to the owners. Last night he was again at pains to point out how he had learned so much by visiting various departments at "a proper football club" where normally managers wouldn't venture. He really is trying to turn the divisions and negatives created by his predecessor into unity and positives.
Adkins, unlike most of the people in his profession, doesn't seem afraid to step into the court of public opinion. He appears to actively encourage it. "Football is all about opinions that's what makes the game so great," he said. It will be interesting to see if that remains so should events not go to plan.
In the final analysis Brian the Blade is as insignificant as you or me as far as United winning promotion is concerned. It really doesn't matter what he thinks anymore than I do so long as we both keep passing through the turnstiles and occasionally visit the Blades Superstore. It's much better, however, if we're all on board. Together we can offer a lot of encouragement and support. That is a basic management skill in any business and Adkins knows it.
Brian is a Blade and takes an interest in the club just like me. He has opinions, extreme and unfathomable ones maybe, but measured or not we all have opinions. That is what supporting football clubs is all about. At the very least our Brian cares enough to observe what is going on and pick up a phone to offer a view.
ELEMENTS OF TRUTH
Radio Sheffield knows that Brian is good value, otherwise it wouldn't allow him air time. Behind the rhetoric, there are elements of truth. Who could argue, for example, that United haven't gone from bad to worse. Eight years ago they were in the Premier League. Since then they have been relegated twice and are now beginning a fifth year in the third tier of English football.
The Board, like Brian, clearly have not had faith with the men in charge. Eight have been sacked in that time. No one can dispute United have produced some dire performances during the wilderness years.
Supporters of all the local clubs have been incensed on many occasions by sports presenters defending the indefensible primarily because they have to speak to the accused week to week and have forged personal relationships. Just think back to the eras of Robson, Adams Weir and even Clough.
So maybe Brian has got some valid points after all. United's manager certainly hopes so.