Sheffield United enter tomorrow’s final match of the 2013/14 season knowing that pride will be the only thing at stake when Coventry City visit Bramall Lane, writes James Shield.
But, as he begins the painstaking process of fashioning a squad capable of delivering Championship football next term, Nigel Clough has warned that is no excuse to regard the meeting with Steve Pressley’s side as a carnival event.
Vowing to field the “strongest team possible” despite acknowledging United, irrespective of the result, can finish no higher than seventh or lower than eighth, he told The Star: “We want to go out, if possible, on a high. We’ll be doing everything we can to make sure that is the case.
“There’s no such thing as a game that’s not worth winning. And how we end this season can have a big impact when we come back.
“Momentum is important and when we begin our preparations, we want the lads to be in a positive frame of mind.”
Clough’s words provide a revealing insight into the type of environment he wants to establish behind the scenes. Having gone on record to state that United’s coaching staff prefer working with a small and select group of players, the former England international is also adamant that winning, no matter what the stakes, must never be treated as optional.
With United, 21st in the table when he took charge seven months ago, winning 14 of their previous 22 matches in all competitions and having reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup, Clough’s methods are clearly starting to take effect.
Nevertheless, against opponents nine places below them in the rankings, United are expected to make several changes to their starting eleven with Neill Collins (ankle) unlikely to be risked and fellow defenders Matt Hill (calf) and Terry Kennedy (knee) also doubts.
“We’ll put out the team we feel is best for the game,” Clough said. “And sometimes that means fresh legs.”
Meanwhile, Franck Moussa is unlikely to feature for City amid fears he has played his final game for Pressley’s team.
The Belgian, whose contract expires shortly, is being monitored by a series of Championship clubs.
“He’s not trained at all,” Pressley said. “Well, he’s tried but never got through a full session in the last four weeks and I don’t see him making any progress this week.
“I would imagine Franck will remain on the sidelines at the weekend. It’s a shame because we’ve been desperately trying to get him back but that’s not been the case.”