Alan Biggs: John Fleck checks in as crucial cog in Sheffield United’s machine

John Fleck celebrates his goal against Chesterfield
John Fleck celebrates his goal against Chesterfield

Players don’t need to be doing anything special to be the centre of attention when they face their former clubs. But you can make an exception for Sheffield United’s John Fleck.

He deserves to be in the spotlight ahead of the Blades’ trip to Coventry tonight.

From what this column’s seen, he’s the heartbeat of a good side that can still be better. Early on, I wasn’t too impressed. It took the midfielder time to get up to the speed – and fitness – of the high tempo football demanded by Chris Wilder.

Now he’s appearing everywhere, pinging the ball all over the place. A good passer and a man demanding the ball; always a progressive pass as well if one is on. It means Paul Coutts can sit behind as the tick-over man and Mark Duffy can operate in front with options to feed through.

Fleck’s move from Coventry on a three-year-deal last summer is looking good all round with his former team floundering near the bottom.

Just maybe – and certainly if United go on to promotion – he can use it as a springboard to full international honours after Scotland caps at levels up to Under 21.

“Improving all the time,” is the rating of a regular United watcher in former skipper David Holdsworth. “One criticism is that he needs to contribute more goals (just one so far) but Fleck is a very competitive player who, if he’s played in the right system as seems to be the case, can be increasingly important in the second half of the season.”

The alliance with Coutts and Duffy, whose brace led the way in the 4-0 win over Swindon, has brought the best out of all three players. With attacking wing backs operating either side, Wilder’s 3-5-2 system is much more offensive than it might appear on paper.

From goalkeeper Simon Moore forward, the team has automatic choices on merit – with the main competition focused further forward on who partners Billy Sharp, although the skipper himself is not immune from that equation. The recalled Matt Done has been his most effective foil, despite a lack of goals, while Caolan Lavery’s breakthrough strike augurs well.