Sheffield United boss Nigel Clough plans to spend in the hope of winning automatic promotion from League One

Nigel Clough is unliikely to risk James Wallace at QPR
Nigel Clough is unliikely to risk James Wallace at QPR

Manager Nigel Clough insists that Sheffield United have not given up hope of achieving automatic promotion from League One this season, after admitting that he is searching for players to make the “little difference” to his side’s fortunes.

Clough’s side, who kick off their 2015 campaign tomorrow with an FA Cup third-round tie at Queens Park Rangers, sit sixth in the League One standings, 14 points behind second-placed Swindon Town.

By Clough’s own admission, a tough month of January - which sees United face Swindon as well as Preston, MK Dons, Preston and Tottenham Hotspur in a two-legged Capital One Cup semi-final - will largely shape where they are in the table when the curtain comes down on their campaign in May.

But the United boss said: “We’re going to try to now assemble a squad for a promotion push. Automatic promotion is still the aim.

“The top two [Bristol City and Swindon] are going well but we haven’t ruled it out.

“Hopefully, we’ve had our bad run and we’re still in the top six, with a game in hand, which bodes well.

“But we want to challenge for automatic promotion so we want to get the signings in to enable us to do that.

“But it’s not always as easy as saying ‘we’ve got money, let’s go get some players’. They have got to be good ones who will improve us, and clubs don’t always want to sell good players.”

Chesterfield duo Jimmy Ryan and Eoin Doyle are thought to be on Clough’s radar, but fellow Spireite Sam Morsy is not a Blades target.

“We’re conceding poor goals at the moment,” Clough added.

“Clubs are having three or four shots against us in games and scoring one or two goals. And results haven’t happened over the last few weeks, or even the last few months. In the league at least.

“But we’re not too far away from hitting top gear and we now have to identify the players who will make that little difference. Because, to be honest, it is only a really small difference which we need to make up.”

Clough, who led United to the semi-finals of the FA Cup last April before a 5-3 defeat to Hull City at Wembley, claimed that the players who arrived at Bramall Lane since will need no extra motivation to repeat the feat.

United have also reached the last four of the Capital One Cup this term and Clough said: “Some of the lads here now didn’t experience Wembley last year but they’ve had a taste of similar success in the League Cup.

“But regardless of that, any player worth anything should want to test himself against the best players and the best teams that he can.

“So if they were part of the semi-final run last year or not, they should still want to do well on FA Cup third round day.”

Should United upset the odds once more and reach the fourth round, Clough will hope that it can transform their fortunes in League One.

“In cup games, we haven’t made the daft little decisions and errors that we keep making in the league games.

“As a coaching staff it drives you mad but maybe that’s why these lads are with us, because they don’t have that week in, week out consistency you see at the top.”