NIGEL ADKINS dropped his guard following defeat at Fulham and was openly critical of one of his players, something the Sheffield United manager said from the outset he would not do.
Three days later and guess who jumped on the bandwagon safe in the knowledge he was merely reflecting Adkins’ views? I’m talking, of course, about The Star’s James Shield. Regular readers of this website will know he has form. For the uninitiated see links below.
It’s taken him a while to start the ball rolling again after undiluted sycophancy was stopped in its tracks by the sacking of Nigel Clough. An act which elicited unaccustomed outrage from the newspaper’s usually compliant Blades correspondent.
Adkins was furious with Jose Baxter for his hot-headed challenge in the 87th-minute of Tuesday’s Capital One Cup 3-0 exit which resulted in a red card and a three-match ban. Prompting Shield to bravely step above the parapet and launch his own reprimand.
It included, for good measure, advising Baxter “to be careful about the company he keeps”. Avoiding fair-weather-friend Shield for one would be a good start as teammate Neill Collins will surely have told him.
In just under three seasons and 98 appearances to date for United, Baxter, who plays in a combative midfield role, has been sent-off twice and received 11 yellow cards. In an era in which cards are distributed like confetti that hardly defines Baxter as a disciplinary worry as far as referees are concerned. In his five years as a professional prior to joining United he was sent off once and accumulated 13 yellow cards.
So in his entire career that’s an average of 3.4 yellow cards a season and one dismissal every 2.3 seasons. If those statistics are a rough guide to what might be expected, it will be Christmas 2017 before Baxter is due another rush of blood.
Interestingly, Adkins had nothing to say about the dismissal of Kieran Wallace minutes later and deep into injury time. United were still trailing 2-0 and the tie was lost, but that didn’t stop Wallace from committing a cynical and equally needless foul on Fulham’s Moussa Dembele who was bearing down on goal. I don’t have to tell you who else didn’t feel it worthy of comment in the very same column. A column which finished with a sentence that required readers to add their own words in order for it to make sense.
I am sure Clough saw through Shield but quickly realised he had an eager PR volunteer and ally willing to not ask awkward questions and help deflect some of the flak. Adkins, however, has more class than that. Hopefully it will put the brakes on Shield yet again becoming his master’s voice. But I wouldn’t count on it.