Sleepless in Sheffield - Interview
Wednesday, 27th Apr 2022 17:53 by Clive Whittingham
Sheff Utd hold a play-off place with two games to go, but their record in the end of season knock-out is notoriously awful and the club and teams are so beset with problems that Jonny from The Shoreham View just wants the whole thing over with.
How's the season been overall?
A very, very, very disappointing one. Obviously we appointed a manager with all the right connections on paper, but then with a mix of the board breaking promises, insufficient funding to shape the squad and Jokanovic’s refusal to adapt his ideas to what was available, nor understand the culture or demands of what a Bramall Lane crowd expects footballing wise, he quickly lost both the squad and the fans. We then appointed Paul Heckingbottom, a brilliant choice, but he’s had to deal with injuries and there has been a failure to back him or improve the training pitches leading to exacerbation of injuries and soft tissue problems. We’ve not been able to put out a full strength squad and continue to rotate every week. We are limping towards the play offs rather than marching. Whether we pull off a shock and win promotion or stay in the Championship I’m just itching for the season to be over.
Sheff Utd league results so far…
Why didn't it work out for Jokanovic? His teams always take a while to get going, was that a premature sacking?
He fell out with the board, with the squad and he failed to accept responsibility for poor management and tactics of what he had at his disposal. Sometimes someone is just not the right fit for the club, and Jokanovic was the definition of this. He failed to adapt and, whilst the board let him down with broken promises, a manager has to look at the players at his disposal, highlight their strengths and weaknesses and properly institute a system that highlights the positives whilst protecting against the negatives. Slav had only one system in his mind and was either too stubborn or too inept to achieve this. He played players in roles that exposed their faults and made it easy for teams to expose them. His insistence of playing the ball sideways did nothing to help him with the crowd.
Paul Heckingbottom, bit of a weird choice it seemed, but he's done better, what did he change? How's he done?
He did everything his predecessor did not. He understood the players having worked with them, he understood the club having worked here within the youth set up. He knew how to get the best from players. Paul got a bad rap from his time at Leeds and Hibs, but all you have to do is look at the shambles those clubs were under his tenure. Whilst this club isn’t stable and you can already sense his frustrations at how he’s being let down by those above, to get us to within touching distance of the play offs with a squad full of second choices, kids and loans is nothing short of remarkable. And he’s done this with his brilliant man management and desire to get the best from players.
How do you rate your play off chances? Games in hand and loads of them at home made you many people's tip but the form is middling coming into this one?
It’s ok having games in hand if you have the squad stability to maintain form and keep a winning side together. I firmly believe if this squad from top to bottom was 100% fit and had decent facilities instead of a training pitch from doom and Hecky had them from match day one, we would be fighting for top two. But that’s ifs and buts and football does not adhere to perfect scenarios, we’ve had to work with what we have and to not be wallowing in mid table is an achievement in itself. If we actually finish top six it will no doubt end up in Wembley heartache as it always does for us, but personally I can see Millwall pipping us.
Assuming you don't go up, what needs doing to the squad for a better push next year?
Well that’s a loaded question. If the current ownership is still here we will be taking in the highest earners from the Prince’s Belgian side as they have been relegated and can’t afford them, meaning Hecky will again be relying on youth and cheap loans, with maybe a free transfer and 3-4 players he never wanted.
If we get backing with a takeover and the new owner is serious Hecky seriously needs to invest in a long term replacement for the still missing Jack O’Connell. Along with quality in depth. I believe the minimum we need is to offload players such as McBurnie, Moussett, Osborn, Burke and Lowe. Then we need to seriously consider two competitive full backs one for each side, two centre halves, one or two midfielders that are going to chalk ante Norwood and Fleck and we need a replacement for Gibbs-White who we will lose. Striker wise that’s always a gamble I’d be happy with one striker and then promoting from the youth to challenge the likes of Sharp, Ndiyaye, McGoldrick and Brewster.
Short version, a lot.
Ins >>> Morgan Gibbs-White, 21, AM, Wolves, Loan >>> Conor Hourihane, 30, CM, Villa, Loan >>> Robin Olsen, 31, GK, Roma, Loan >>> Ben Davies, 26, CB, Liverpool, Loan >>> Adlene Guedioura, 35, AM, Unattached, Free
Outs >>> Aaron Ramsdale, 23, GK, Arsenal, £25m >>> Simon Moore, 31, GK, Coventry, Free >>> John Lundstram, 27, CM, Rangers, Free >>> Phil Jagielka, 38, CB, Derby, Free >>> Jack Rodwell, 30, CM, Western Sydney Wanderers, Free >>> Kean Bryan, 24, CB, Released >>> Jake Eastwood, 24, GK, Portsmouth, Loan >>> Max Lowe, 24, LB, Forest, Loan >>> Daniel Jebbison, 18, CF, Burton, Loan
Player of the season candidates?
Has to be League One Wes. What other second fiddle keeper takes an opportunity and makes such a success of it? The man has been reliable, professional and kept us in absurd amount of games.
Weak links in the team?
Depends what week you are asking. I feel our wingbacks are out of form and we’ve not had a fully fit strike force since February so that’s where we are lacking most consistently.
Another takeover in the works, what can you tell us?
Not a great deal, apparently the mystery American who some people think isn’t even real due to his lack of online presence allegedly according to reports signed the deal months ago but the EFL are hesitant to sign off. Some say it’s better the devil you know but our current owners, despite their media spin, willingness to pay shills to sing their praises and propaganda are failing the club. They remain inept and out of their depth and at this point anything to see the back of them would be welcomed.
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