Nigel Adkins has told his players to brace themselves for a “horrible summer” after vowing to make Sheffield United one of the fittest teams in the Football League.
Adkins issued his pledge following their 3-0 rout of Chesterfield which moved the visitors to within six points of the play-off positions ahead of tomorrow’s game at Shrewsbury Town.
Despite privately expressing concerns about the squad’s conditioning levels after taking charge in June, Adkins attributes their recent upturn in fortune to the austere regime he has implemented behind the scenes.
“We can still get a lot fitter,” he said. “And they know pre-season is, in the nicest possible way, going to be horrible. But I want us to be the fittest team in the division and next season we will be.
“We’re getting there but it doesn’t happen overnight. We’ll keep pushing them, we have the expertise to help them, but they have to want to do it. And, when they do, the players themselves will get all the praise which is exactly how it should be.”
Alex Baptiste’s first goal since arriving on loan from Middlesbrough saw United, now ninth in the table with four fixtures remaining, seize control of Saturday’s match at the Proact Stadium before Che Adams and Billy Sharp also scored. The result stretched United’s unbeaten run to three matches and saw them record a third successive clean sheet.
Adkins, arguing Paul Coutts’ improved performances of late illustrate the benefits of his new fitness programme, said: “The quality Paul has shown is great. That, his quality, was never in question but he’s much fitter now. The three in the middle complement each other so well. Dean Hammond does that nuts and bolts job so, so well and then there’s the flair from Flynny (Ryan Flynn) too. We took him off because he was feeling a little bit unwell but he should be okay.”
“We could have scored more than we did,” Adkins added. “I’ve got so much respect for Danny (Wilson) and Chris (Morgan) at Chesterfield but I thought the lads went about their business superbly well out there. They had that ruthlessness, which you need, to keep on trying for more. What you saw out there was a grouyp of hard-working honest lads who were giving it a right good go for each other.”