James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Scots, red tape and two up top

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Nigel Clough likes to feign frustration about the number of Scots now swelling his first team squad.

But the Sheffield United manager, whose supposed chagrin always makes for good knockabout stuff whenever a member of Bramall Lane’s Caledonian contingent is within earshot, will definitely be keeping a close eye on events north of the border this morning. Where, in case you have spent the past few weeks living inside a hermetically sealed bubble, the results of the country’s independence referendum are scheduled to be officially announced at around 7am.

Why? Because the outcome - polls were last night suggesting a narrow victory for the No campaign - could have a material effect upon the composition of United teams in the future.

With over a third of the players pictured on the club’s latest official team photograph born in Scotland - another, Jay McEveley, has been capped by the SFA despite hailing from Liverpool - a ‘yes’ vote could see Bramall Lane’s hierarchy forced to negotiate work permits should they wish to extend the contracts of Bob Harris, Jamie Murphy, Stefan Scougall etc when their present deals expire.

Unless, and this is unlikely given the complexity of the admission process, an independent Scotland gains membership of the European Union within 18 months. If not, then freedom of movement across the newly created border could be greatly reduced. The benefits of the Bosman Ruling, from a professional footballer’s perspective at least, would not apply.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing this with a Union Jack draped proudly around my shoulders. Politically speaking, I understand why many Scots, who consistently vote for one government in Westminster elections only to be lumbered with another, find divorce a tempting option. Appreciate how the toxicity of the Thatcher-era laid essentially laid the foundations for what has become an increasingly acrimonious affair.

But, even if the UK remains intact, the independence issue is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Okay, so the Edinburgh Agreement does not include arrangements for subsequent polls. But with 57 per cent of 25 to 34-year-old’s eligible to vote reportedly in favour of separation, you can bet your bottom dollar it will quickly be back on the agenda. Despite being tagged a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity.

Clough, for all his jovial posturing, might soon have good reason to curse the Scots.

Meanwhile, the dramatic nature of United’s victory over Colchester earlier this week - when late strikes from Ben Davies (2) and Ryan Flynn, another talented Scot by the way, saw them overturn a two goal deficit - meant an interesting tactical switch when relatively unnoticed.

The visitors started the match with two up front. And failed to score.

They switched to one and netted three times in the space of five amazing minutes.

So do formations help deliver results? Or are approach, attitude and application more important? Just a thought.

*Twitter: @JamesShield1