Danny, you’ve experienced many things in football, yet I imagine last Friday was something entirely new. . .
I’m quite a philosophical guy. You have to take the good with the bad. When I reflect I think that from my perspective the fans and the club were crying out for success, but also a certain style of success. I feel the frustration was, yes, because of the history and also because I’m not a big name, so to speak. Some people think that because I’m not a big name, success will be minimal. I think quite the opposite - and that drives me on a bit more.
You say you’re not a big name but you’re a former top flight player and an international. . .
Okay, but what makes me feel quite proud is that if all goes well over the next two and a bit years, I’ll have done 1,000 games as a manager. And I’ll be one of the youngest to get there. I’m not stupid enough to think I’m a number one choice for clubs. But I’ve proved myself to a lot of people with the teams I’ve managed. It surprised me when I was told how many games I’ve done (843) and it’s given me a nice goal. But there’s got to be success to achieve that.
How thick a skin do you have? And how thick does it have to be for this job?
You don’t want a thick skin but you have to have one. Managers are no different to anyone else - we all want the arm round our shoulder with people saying how well we’ve done. But the way the game is now, you have to be more resilient. People chop and change and are less patient. So you have to grow an extra layer of skin. I have done, but I feel sorry for the younger managers just coming in. It’s twice as tough for them.
The circumstances of your arrival are unusual in another way, too. Very few players around, people on holiday. Does that help in giving you time to plan?
It’s just coincidence, but it does give you the whole pre-season to evaluate the squad and formulate areas you need to strengthen. It’s inevitable that players will move on. Exactly who is difficult to say. If you come in further down the line you have less chance. There is extra time to get to know people.
You’ve based yourself right in among the club’s staff with your choice of office at Bramall Lane. Is that deliberate?
I’ve always done that, it’s important. I feel the importance of people behind the scenes in clubs is underestimated. You’ve got to be in the mix and feel their emotions. We have to be accessible, players included. The distance between the players and the fans at some levels of football is a sad indictment of the game. We’ve got to rectify that or there is a danger of being aloof. Players have a responsibility there.
It could be said that you have nothing to lose. The club has been relegated, the budget has to be reduced, some of the fans are against you. . .
I feel quite the opposite to that. This is a giant club that has had some bad times and it is only a matter of time before it moves forward again. I’d love to be part of that. So I feel I’ve got too much to lose. I have too many friends around the club and near where I live to think any other way. They are close friends of mine, ex-players at Sheffield United - the likes of Tony Currie, Len Badger and Ted Hemsley. I’d like to think they understand my philosophy and feel I can put style back on the pitch.
Some key decisions have to be made first, for instance cutting the wage bill. How much say will you have - or do you accept that some of it is out of your hands?
You’ve got to remember that business decisions are generally made upstairs. You have to sit down and evaluate what’s beneficial and what’s detrimental. I’d like to think I’m part of that process. I don’t think there’s anything in the pipeline at the moment. But I’m very much a realist. Players leaving will have to happen in some cases.
Have you had an opportunity yet to talk to some of the senior players whose future has been questioned, for instance Darius Henderson, Ched Evans, Nick Montgomery and Stephen Quinn?
Not really. I’ve seen Quinny and Monty, just for a little chat. The others are on holiday. But it’s too early to talk about the future. I’ll be doing that in the next week or so. A lot of attention has been created by the young players here and rightly so. But you also need that type of experienced player to guide them, people who are not selfish.
The irony being that this is the type you’ve just mentioned. . .
They stand out like sore thumbs, don’t they? The likes of Morgs (club skipper and now coach Chris Morgan) who can be a massive influence on the young lads. There has to be that trust, belief and honesty. If you are going to integrate kids they will need all the help they can get.
There has been interest from Fulham in one of those kids, Jordan Slew. Any developments on that?
Jordan has a year left on contract and I had a meeting with him on Tuesday. I then have a meeting with his agent next week. With a bit of luck, we can get them to sign a new contract that was agreed before I came here. There is a fantastic opportunity here for the likes of Jordan and others from the youth team. The support the fans have given them has shown these boys that they can make a big name for themselves here at Sheffield United. I believe it’s important for their development to stick around. What they might regard as bigger and better things could turn out to be sitting on their backsides waiting for an opportunity. The bottom line is that every kid wants to play football. At times they are too easily led for other reasons and later on they will regret it.
People talk about your Sheffield Wednesday link as a hindrance. But, in fact, can it be a help? I mean, in terms of that being your one previous experience of managing a similar-sized club?
Yes, it’s got to be a positive. Any experience in management has to be a help and certain situations repeat themselves. I’d like to think my experiences at Sheffield Wednesday will help me. If that helps Sheffield United, brilliant.
I know you felt let down at Hillsborough. But are there lessons from that time which you can draw on here?
Well, it gave me a lot of resilience, for a start. That toughened me up big style. I felt I was standing on my own at times. Talk about growing extra layers. That’s where a lot started to grow on me.
For all the difficulties and disadvantages after Sheffield United’s relegation, you have a chance to build a new team almost from scratch. That’s pretty rare. Is that one of the attractions for you?
Absolutely. With relegation, comes pain and restructuring. It’s never nice. Decisions have to be made, people lose their jobs. But somebody coming into that has the opportunity to start from the beginning. I hope we can get cracking as soon as we can and get the best possible players into the club. It’s a great opportunity for everybody. Not just for me - and it’s not about me. It’s about the club moving forward again. When that happens it will take some stopping. Momentum is a great thing.