Sheffield United: Lane star salutes Clough after Blades run

United goalkeeper Mark Howard.
United goalkeeper Mark Howard.

It remains unclear where Mark Howard will be playing his football next season.

Nonetheless, the goalkeeper is convinced the future looks rosy for Sheffield United, crediting manager Nigel Clough for transforming their fortunes.

Just over two months ago, United slipped to second-from-bottom in the League One standings after suffering a 3-0 defeat at Crewe Alexandra.

However, nine victories from their last 14 league outings has lifted Clough’s men up to 11th in the table, a whopping 13 points clear of 21st-placed Carlisle United, who currently occupy the final relegation spot.

Under Clough’s watchful eye, United also reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Sunday’s 5-3 defeat at Wembley to Hull City ended their fairytale run which included victories over Premier League clubs Aston Villa and Fulham.

Howard, out of contract at the end of the 2013/14 campaign, is loving working with Clough and believes the United chief has played an integral part in their renaissance.

He said: “The manager has to take a lot of credit [for the revival]. He will try and deflect and say it’s not much to do with him.

“But he brought the lads together and we are playing attractive football.

“Every manager is different and got their own style. He’s got his own style and I’ve enjoyed working under him.”

Howard spent much of the first half of the season as understudy to England Under-21 international George Long.

But the Londoner has featured prominently in United’s revival, having been recalled to the starting line-up for the FA Cup replay at Fulham back in February. The Londoner has started 17 times in 2014, keeping 12 clean sheets, including a club-record eight consecutive shut-outs.

The Star understands United are set to invoke their option on extending Howard’s deal. But Clough has recently indicated either Long or Howard will be allowed to leave Bramall Lane on loan next term.

Following their cup adventure, Clough has challenged his players to end their league programme in a positive manner, starting at home to relegation-threatened Stevenage on Good Friday.

He said: “It’s back to the league now and these are important games. We are not just going to play them out. That’s not what we want. We want to finish this season strongly and that can help us set a tone for the next.

“We just want to continue improving.”