Lane centre-half learns from the masters

Fortunate: United defender Neill Collins
Fortunate: United defender Neill Collins

NEILL Collins has already paid tribute to the positive influence Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson has had on his career.

But the Scottish centre-half, who is expected to anchor the visitors’ defence during this weekend’s clash with Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, has also picked the brains of two accomplished exponents of the defensive arts as he prepares himself for the maelstrom of a Steel City showdown.

With a combined 1,229 senior appearances and nearly half a century of derbies on their respective footballing CVs, there is precious little Chris Morgan and David Weir have not experienced in their careers.

Morgan, who accepted a role on Wilson’s coaching staff when the former Northern Ireland international was appointed in May, has yet to resume playing duties after suffering a serious knee injury 17 months ago.

But Morgan’s new role has ensured he remains a powerful and influential figure behind the scenes, with Collins keen to benefit from his experience.

“Myself and the rest of the centre-halves here are really fortunate because we’ve got two of the best people with us that you could possibly learn from in Chris and David,” he said.

“They’ve been there, seen it and done it so it’s great to have them around because they can pass on so much.

“Both of them know exactly the challenges that you face in this position and they’ve dealt with everything the job can throw up before.

“It’s a real boost having them around the place with us.”

“Chris is hugely respected by everyone here,” Collins added.

“He might not be out there on the pitch at the moment but he’s still a massive part of what we are trying to do.”

Weir, a veteran of 43 Old Firm, Merseyside and Edinburgh derbies, had been training with United since leaving Glasgow Rangers earlier this term.

Wilson actively encouraged him to share his knowledge with players such as Collins as they devise a strategy to combat Wednesday’s aerial threat. Nevertheless, Collins, who has tasted success with the likes of Sunderland and Leeds, has warned against over-playing the ‘experience’ card when attempting to predict the outcome of Sunday’s contest.

“It counts for a lot but it doesn’t count for everything,” he said. “We’ve seen youngsters here come into high-pressure situations and they’ve more than coped.”Weir, who watched United beat Huddersfield Town earlier this month, is unlikely to be present at Hillsborough after accepting a coaching role with his former club Everton last night.He will work primarily with the Premier League outfit’s academy and reserves.“The manager (David Moyes) has always maintained there would be a role here for me when I finally decided to come back,” he said. “I’ll do whatever he requires.“It feels like coming home again.”