Nigel Adkins, linked with the vacant Sheffield United post, has admitted he wants to get back into management - but hopes to land a job in the Premier League.
The 50-year-old has been out of work since he was sacked by Reading in December, but has an impressive reputation in the game after twice winning promotion with Scunthorpe United - and then guiding Southampton from League One into the top-flight in successive seasons.
Adkins is known to have at least one admirer on the Bramall Lane board following Monday’s decision to part company with Nigel Clough and, speaking at a Football Foundation event on Friday, he admitted he is keen on a return to the game.
“I loved my time with Southampton and the Premier League is where I want to be,” Adkins, who was Scunthorpe’s physio before taking the manager job, said.
“When you’re young and ambitious, that’s the level you want to get to. But I’m utilising my time [out of the game] to keep developing myself in all aspects of leadership.
“I’ve been in work since the age of 16 and apart from a short spell out of work, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time out of management.
“I have been doing something travelling. I went to the USA to watch football, basketball and baseball.
“I have been broadening my horizons. I feel fit and fresh and I’m looking forward to the next managerial challenge should it come along.”
The rise of Southampton - a similar club to United, in many aspects - from League One to the Premier League has not gone unnoticed at Bramall Lane, either.
After United beat them in the Capital One Cup last term, co-chairman Jim Phipps told The Star: “Southampton are a very good model, for us and for a lot of other clubs.
“Sheffield United is similarly based on having an organic academy which produces a volume of players for the first team and, overall, we’re ranked very highly amongst English Premier League and Football League clubs.
“And in terms of putting players into Premier League sides, we’re amongst the best in the country. So we are two fairly similar clubs, and we’d do well to take a page from their story.”
“The similarities are there,” Phipps, who arrived in South Yorkshire after Saudi Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad acquired a 50 per cent stake in United, added.
“If you look back a few seasons, Southampton were where we are now and maybe even a touch below. They struggled in their first season before ending up just outside the play-offs, and they were maybe just a shade behind us at this stage the season after, before they went on the run which took them up.
“Like us, they have produced a lot of players for the England team and, also like us, they have passionate fans and are an organic, ‘proper’ football club.
“Although I do think our fans are better!
“Once a team goes up to the Championship, it is rarer for them to make the next step straight into the Premier League.
“But Southampton have shown that it can, in fact, be done.”
Bradford City’s Phil Parkinson and Karl Robinson, of MK Dons, are also thought to feature on United’s shortlist while Mark Warburton, formerly of Brentford, is also of interest.