One small step along the road towards redemption, writes James Shield. One giant leap in terms of convincing the sceptics among Sheffield United’s support.
Seven days ago, David Weir’s team produced an exemplary display which proved a fitting curtainraiser to the Football League’s 125th anniversary celebrations. Tomorrow, when they return to action at Brentford, he must hope his players possess the same sense of occasion.
Replicating the type of football Notts County found too hot to handle against opponents expected to challenge for the title this term would represent a serious statement of intent. Even at such an early stage.
Meticulous and thorough, Weir nevertheless appreciates United are going to make mistakes. Indeed, such is the sea change in tactics they are attempting to employ, slip-ups are inevitable.
A few surprise results here and there, Tuesday’s cup defeat by Burton Albion included, as a system which demands moves are built from the back and every inch of the pitch is utilised beds down and the creases are ironed out.
It’s attractive but high risk. Albeit a calculated gamble given the technical ability at United’s disposal.
The Scot, like another well-known graduate of an Indiana university, is ready to walk a metaphorical tightrope in order to achieve notoriety and success.
Neil Armstrong did exactly the same thing when, 36 months after leaving Purdue, he embarked on a process which would later see him become the first man to walk across the surface of the moon.
Three decades later, Weir enrolled on a scholarship at nearby Evansville rather than take the traditional route into professional sport.
The challenges he faced then pale into insignificance compared to those which confronted Armstrong. But the principle remains the same.
United averaged 2.0 points per game throughout the first 10 fixtures of the 2011/12 campaign and 1.8 last time out. Their final ten returned figures of 2.1 and 1.0 respectively although, a year ago, that dropped to 0.66 in the last three. Now, however, it seems probable United’s form will improve towards the end of the season rather than finish on a downward curve.
Patience will be a virtue both on and off the pitch.