NIGEL ADKINS remains “bitterly disappointed” by Sheffield United’s decision to sack him 15 months ago, just short of a year into a three-year deal.
Writing on his website this week, the ninth United manager to lose his job in as many years, said: “The Blades had been languishing in League One for several seasons. Several managers had tried to get them out of the division without success and I was one of them. I had a season as manager of the South Yorkshire club, I was bitterly disappointed to have had my three-year contract cut short. I learnt many things in my short time at Bramall Lane.”
It was a bitter disappointment for United, too. They finished in their lowest league position in 33 years, 11th in the third tier, Adkins was responsible for creating what has since been universally accepted, apart from himself, an unprecedented disconnect between club, players and supporters.
The carnage he left was such that co-owners Kevin McCabe and Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in an effort to start repairing the damage, reduced season ticket prices when the club could ill afford to do it.
The final match of the season, a 2-0 home defeat to Scunthorpe, another of Adkins’ former club’s, was marked by an exodus of fans. Little more than a 1,000 remainied from 21,448 to witness an embarrassing lap of the pitch by players and staff amid jeers.
His successor, Chris Wilder, a Blades fan, was well aware of the disconnect and without naming names has often referred to it. What Wilder achieved in exactly the same period demonstrated everything that Adkins’ tenure did not. A remarkable turnaround on the way to winning the League One title with a club-record 100 points and ending six years in the wilderness. He began with a ruthless clear-out and started again.
Which is something even Adkins can agree with. He writes: “ Sheffield United have the momentum now under Chris Wilder, another seasoned English manager, who guided them to promotion last season with 100 points.”
He adds: “Billy Sharp was the first signing at Sheffield United when I became manager. A player I had sold to Sheffield United from Scunthorpe United in 2007. Billy had scored 30 goals in our [Scunthorpe's] title winning season.
Billy also signed for Southampton where he scored some important goals in our promotion run in to the Premier League in 2012. Billy joined Reading on loan, however it was short lived due to the financial situation at the club at the time. I was delighted that Sheffield United was able to sign Billy from Leeds United, the only signing for a transfer fee.
“Billy was the leading scorer in my time at the club and again scored the goals that shot the club to promotion last season.”
Looking ahead to the first city showdowns since 2011-12 and the first in the Championship since 2009-10, Adkins commented: “It will be an exciting couple of 'Sheffield Steel Derby' fixtures that I'm sure the passionate supporters will be up for. I wish them well.”
You can read the full post written by Nigel Adkins’ reviewing the prospects of Championship clubs this season by clicking here.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW
Nigel Adkins: Hasn’t managed a club since being sacked by the Blades in May 2016. Was interviewed by Bolton Wanderers last summer before Phil Parkinson was appointed.
George Long: On loan at AFC Wimbledon. The Sheffield-born former England Under-20 goalkeeper quickly lost his first team place to new arrival Simon Moore. Then suffered the ignominy of being third choice behind youngster Aaron Ramsdale, only returning to the bench when Ramsdale was sold to Bournemouth.
Alex Baptiste: A loanee from Middlesbrough, the right-back returned to the Riverside but spent last season on loan at Preston.
David Edgar: Canadian loanee from Birmingham City. The defender, whose contract expired on his return to St Andrews, signed an 18-month deal with Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS. He was victim of a hit-and-run accident involving a vehicle in Arizona last December, damaging cruciate and medial ligaments in his right knee. He has yet to return to the first team.
Jay McEveley: Surprisingly named captain by Nigel Adkins. The defender was released by Chris Wilder and signed a two-year deal with Ross County in the Scottish Premier League. He has just left by mutual agreement and joined National League Tranmere Rovers.
Paul Coutts: Immediately transfer-listed by Wilder but impressed in training, won a place in the side was taken off the list. Was a crucial central midfield influence as United marched to the League One title. Just signed a new two-year contract.
Chris Basham: Has come on leaps and bounds under Wilder. Now a confident-looking defender, less prone to error, certainly at League One level, which could infuriate fans. Another key figure in the promotion side. Signed a new two-year contract.
Dean Hammond: Hasn’t found a club since a controversial departure from Bramall Lane last July Had a trial at Coventry who declined his services. Hammond epitomised a great deal that was wrong with Adkins’ regime. Signed on loan from Leicester City he was a favourite of the manager’s even though his lack of contribution angered supporters. Those fans and Wilder were stunned to discover that Hammond had the option of a permanent one-year contract when his loan expired. Unwanted and put on the transfer list, not surprisingly there were no takers and United instead paid up his contract to get rid.
Martyn Woolford: Released by Wilder one-year into a two-year contract and joined Fleetwood on 12-month deal. Now without a club. Another favourite of Adkins who also managed him at Scunthorpe. The left-sided midfield player had his moments at the Lane which were appreciated, but far too inconsistent.
Matt Done: Transfer-listed and has just returned to Rochdale. A favourite at the Lane. Tireless worker up front, but played out of position on left by Adkins. Given an early chance in a more central attacking role under Wilder before finding himself out on the left again. Failure to score more goals and better options in that position resulted in him losing his place at the turn of the year.
Che Adams: Birmingham City recently rejected a £5million bid for the 21-year-old whom former Blades boss Nigel Clough signed from non-league Ilkeston. Sold to Birmingham City last August for a fee believed to be £2million. Made 42 appearances for the Blues and scored seven goals.
Billy Sharp: What can I say. Appointed captain by Wilder, led United to promotion in swashbuckling style and was top scorer with 30 goals. The lifelong Blades fan was signed by Adkins who, as Scunthorpe manager, took him from the Lane to Lincolnshire. Also signed him for Southampton. Whatever happens now, Sharp has secured his place in United’s Hall of Fame. Just signed new two-year contract.
SUBS THAT FATEFUL DAY
Conor Sammon: Largely ineffective striker released by Wilder. Joined Scottish Premier League Hearts before falling out of favour and being loaned to Kilmarnock. Now slipped further down the pecking order at Tynecastle with reports that the Jambos are prepared to pay up the remaining two years of his contract. St Johnstone, who signed ex-Blade and free agent Stefan Scougall this summer, have shown interest
Louis Reed: Talented and upcoming young midfielder but found it difficult to cement a place in Wilder’s side. Has been loaned to League Two Chesterfield in order to gain match time.
Harrison McGahey: Defender was released and joined Rochdale.
Florent Cuvelier: Belgian midfielder was released by Wilder and signed for Walsall on one-year deal. Has since renewed it for another 12 months.
Ben Whiteman: Just started loan spell at Doncaster Rovers. 21-year-old midfielder is another promising youngster who has found it hard to break into the team.
Graham Kelly: Free transfer to Port Vale this summer. Little-known teenage defender loaned to Stalybridge. Made his only appearance for United in 4-2 Football League Trophy win at Grimsby last November.
Aaron Ramsdale: Highly-rated goalkeeper but sold to Premier League Bournemouth, who outbid Everton, for £1m in January. The England youth international made two FA Cup appearances for the Blades under Wilder. His debut was a quiet one, coming in 6-0 thrashing of Leyton Orient at the Lane.