Che Adams is being challenged to cement his place in Sheffield United’s starting 11 as the search for Billy Sharp’s perfect strike partner continues.
The two players have emerged as manager Nigel Adkins’ preferred attacking pairing in recent weeks after Adams, who started his career at Bramall Lane on the wing, excelled in a more central role against Doncaster Rovers last month.
Although Marc McNulty is scheduled to return north at the end of the season following a successful loan at Portsmouth, Adams is currently in pole position to fill the void alongside United’s leading goalscorer after impressing coaching staff with his attitude since being being punished for a minor breach of discipline earlier this term.
The teenager was named on the bench for the trip to Millwall following some lack-lustre displays in training but could be recalled when Crewe Alexandra visit South Yorkshire on Friday.
“We want Billy and Che to have a good partnership,” Adkins said. “We don’t want them to be too far apart or drift away from one another out there on the pitch. The system we have allows them to do that.”
Adkins’ admission that his decision to switch to a 3-5-2 formation rather than his favoured 4-4-2 was, in part at least, motivated by a desire to bring the best out of Adams and Sharp is particularly telling and confirms suspicions that McNulty is not assured of a role when his agreement at Fratton Park expires.
Adams entered last weekend’s round of matches having scored nine times while McNulty travelled to Mansfield Town searching for his 12th of the campaign, although all but two of those goals came against League Two opposition.
“There are no guarantees,”Adkins, who recently named Sharp on the bench following injury, said. “Yes, they say possession is nine-tenths of the law but the people who have the jersey also know they have got to perform. If they don’t then there are players trying to take their position in the team. That’s what I mean when I say it’s all about the squad and not just the 11 or the substitutes on a matchday.”