Danny Higginbotham has revealed how he “didn’t think twice” before accepting a six-month deal with Sheffield United - with a little help from an old friend.
Higginbotham made his United debut in the New Year’s Day clash at Doncaster Rovers, which saw his new employers fight back from 2-0 down to secure a dramatic 2-2 draw.
Dave Kitson was the man who rescued a point against Dean Saunders’ Rovers with a late strike, after Nick Blackman’s earlier penalty.
And, speaking ahead of United’s FA Cup tie with Oxford United this weekend, 34-year-old Higginbotham also credited Kitson’s part in his move to South Yorkshire.
“I got a phone call from Dave, who had spoken to the manager,” Higginbotham said.
“So I have got to be thankful for him for helping me get this move.
“Me and Dave go back a long way from our Stoke days, and I didn’t have to think twice when the deal was put on the table.”
Higginbotham, who spent the early stages of this campaign on loan at Ipswich Town, had the opportunity to return to Portman Road before Kitson’s intervention.
“I was getting ready to go back to Ipswich on Sunday,” the defender added.
“But after speaking to Dave, I was optimistic something would be sorted, and it was.
“It has been a whirlwind 48 hours or so and now I am focused on getting my head down and working hard.
“Thankfully my future is sorted so I can relax a bit and hopefully that will help my football.”
Higginbotham, who has also represented Derby County, Southampton and Sunderland, added: “When I saw how many United fans were at Doncaster, I knew what a fantastic opportunity this was.
“Quite honestly, it is an honour to play for fans like that because they were unbelievable.
“I don’t say that lightly but that level of support is fantastic, whether the game is two miles away from home or two hundred.
“I am fortunate to get this move, but I am under no illusions that I will have to work hard to play regularly.
“Dropping into League One isn’t a worry for me because this is a club on the up.
“I didn’t want to be stuck at Stoke just picking my money up, because that isn’t me.
“This division is a good one but we want to fight our way back to the Championship in the months ahead - and I am sure we have the ability and character to do so.”
With Neill Collins still nursing a cheekbone injury and Harry Maguire suspended, Higginbotham partnered teenager Terry Kennedy at the heart of a new-look defence at the Keepmoat Stadium and admitted: “It wasn’t looking like being a great start for me when we were 2-0 down!
“But the lads look like they have a real character and togetherness. It is a shame the game didn’t go on for another ten minutes or so because there was only going to be one winner.
“Doncaster were out on their feet and I am sure we would have made our dominance tell.
“We were disappointed with the goals we conceded, but generally we defended well and stood up to the physical challenge Doncaster threw at us.”
And it was no surprise to the Blades new boy that it was Kitson who popped up with the decisive leveller, his fifth goal in United colours.
“Dave is a great player with a real touch of class,” Higginbotham said.
“We have seen it at the top level for many years and he is a very clever footballer, too.
“He held his own at Doncaster against two very imposing and physical defenders, but he fully deserved his goal.
“Hopefully he could be the difference in helping Sheffield United win promotion back to the Championship this season.”
United manager Danny Wilson, who confirmed that a cash deal for Motherwell’s Jamie Murphy has been all but completed, was impressed by the fighting spirit shown by his players, who remain second in League One.
“That’s not the first time we’ve seen the character of the lads here,” he said.
“It was difficult, against a team riding high and pushing us at the top of the league.”
Wilson was also enthused by encouraging displays from teenagers Kenndy, Elliott Whitehouse and Joe Ironside, the latter winning the penalty which started the comeback.
“Joey played a major part,” the United manager said.
“You want your substitutes to make an impact when they come on, and Joe certainly did that.
“We’ve used him sparingly so far, but he came on and ran his guts out. He makes it difficult for defenders because he’s as brave as a lion.”
Kennedy and Whitehouse, too, were members of United’s Youth Cup squad which reached the final in 2011, alongside Maguire and goalkeeper George Long.
“Terry and Elliott couldn’t have come into a more difficult game, a local derby and a top of the league clash,” Wilson said.