Sheffield United manager Nigel Adkins has leapt to the defence of his players by rubbishing claims they do not care about the football club.
Adkins was speaking after critics accused United’s first team squad of failing to show enough passion during a disappointing run which sees them enter this afternoon’s FA Cup tie against Oldham Athletic without a win in five games.
Despite cutting a frustrated figure after United conceded an injury time equaliser at Barnsley last weekend, Adkins said: “I think there was plenty of drive and desire on Saturday. We have worked on the training ground this week on several things, and there is a spirit around the players, a desire to do well.
“It’s easy to throw comments in like ‘oh people don’t care’. I care, and the players that we have at this football club, we demand that they care. They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t. We wouldn’t allow it.”
Although he acknowledged improving United’s position in the League One table - they are 12th after 20 games - remains his priority, Adkins’ refusal to let Oldham select Michael Higdon for the second round match is a reflection of the club’s commitment to the competition. Higdon joined the visitors on loan earlier this season but is scheduled to return next month.
“In previous cup games I have utilised the squad of players, the size of the squad, because players want to play.,” Adkins continued. “Whatever team I put out at the weekend will have the desire, hunger and passion to win a game of football and get us through.”
Hammond, on loan from Leicester City, is eligible after appearing in the previous round while goalkeeper Mark Howard could be recalled after losing his starting place to George Long. Jose Baxter, who was the subject of a disciplinary procedure earlier this week, is receiving treatment for a leg problem. Together with Stefan Scougall, he missed the trip to Oakwell due to fitness concerns. David Edgar and Jamal Campbell-Ryce are unlikely to be risked after damaging hamstrings during the 1-1 draw.
Oldham, ranked 21st, yesterday indicated Carl Winchester and Mike Jones are poised to take part. Jones has been struggling with an ankle complaint.
“We are looking forward to a good game,” Adkins said. “We are at home, against a team from the same division and it’s not going to be an easy match.”