ANOTHER transfer deadline passes, more blank looks between Sheffield United fans. It was all too familiar. Talk from within the club of underpinning the promotion campaign, expectation rising. Jamie Murphy’s transfer fee from Brighton, £1.7million, pledged to be re-invested.
Reports of frantic behind-the-scenes activity. The clock ticking, time running out. Rumour and counter-rumour. Then, momentarily, an eerie silence before theories and explanations of a transfer stalemate start to flow.
Only minutes after Tuesday’s 6pm watershed the Twittersphere and message boards were in full voice. Quickly followed by the ubiquitous “we’ve been working very hard behind the scenes” and “we don’t need numbers, we need to bring in quality to add to what we’ve got”. This time it was uttered by manager Nigel Adkins, but he was only repeating almost word for word what most of his predecessors in the last eight years had said.
That is not intended as a slight on Adkins. It is indisputable any additions to the squad must improve United’s odds on winning promotion. Signing players in order to appease impatient supporters does not work.
It doesn’t help, however, that a difficulty to attract players of the right quality is a theme revisited by United far too often. Supporters are told monotonously by new signings ‘what a great club this is. The facilities, the history, the fan base’. How as soon as they knew United were interested it was a ‘no-brainer’. Yet, this clearly isn’t the case.
It can only be surmised that United’s litany of failure in various transfer windows tells the true story of where United are. A well-established third tier club with a history of poor decision making from the very top. Attractive only to displaced players, excluding Billy Sharp, only too grateful to secure, or have the chance to secure their futures at a big city club watched regularly by about 20,000 fans.
Which leaves Adkins like those before him with a major problem. Unlike the Chris Basham’s of this world who are so eager to tell you that the squad Adkins inherited was a good one, the manager surely knows better. There is a reason why United have been in League One for half a decade and last season served only to underline it. That rent-a-quote players like Basham don’t understand is worrying.
A couple of insufferable players strutting about at the moment like puffed-up newly appointed school prefects swearing allegiance to the manager, just like they have done to previous bosses, would be at the front of the queue ready to be off-loaded if Adkins had his way.
That is out of the question while United remain in League One. It’s a vicious circle. Which is why United managers past and present make huge efforts to ‘bring in quality’ and fail with well-accustomed regularity. It is no more surprising than it is alarming.
United’s defensive frailties have still to be properly addressed as has a lack of authority in midfield. United haven’t got a leader on the pitch and those entrusted by the manager to assume responsibility are letting him down. If the penny does not drop soon, that will come back to bite him.
Result. Adkins will have to soldier on until the January transfer window trying to make some of his workforce believe they are more superior than they actually are in order to make progress. That is what a good manager does. A delusional player or two might even help the cause.
Man management is one of Adkins’ proven strengths. After the transfer window slammed shut, he’s relying on it.