Column: Has this Sheffield United team got what it takes?

Sometimes, it's not just about the balls you put in the back of the net.

Friday, 4th March 2016, 9:01 am
Updated Friday, 4th March 2016, 9:46 pm

It’s about the ones we blokes, if you get my drift, carry about with us every day too.

And Sheffield United’s squad must show they’ve got bloody big cojones between now and the end of the season to prevent yet another campaign which, despite being pregnant with promise eight months ago, ending in acrimony, despair and bitter disappointment.

Sheffield United's performance against Burton Albion raises a number of questions ©2016 Sport Image all rights reserved

They certainly weren’t in evidence on Tuesday evening when, being completely frank, an insipid and at times utterly pathetic second-half display enabled Burton Albion to record what must surely be their easiest away victory of the campaign so far. Seventy-two hours earlier, against Rochdale, United might have been beaten but, ignoring the deliberately misleading narrative being peddled during the immediate aftermath, at least produced some fine exchanges along the way.

Those, barring a second minute move involving Matt Done, were conspicuous by their absence in midweek.

With howls of derision booming out from the stands following the final whistle and the usually upbeat Nigel Adkins striking an equally strident tone during his post-match interviews, the defeat by Burton proved to be a turning point in the relationship between team, supporters and staff.

The United team which a decade ago gained promotion to the top-flight was by no means the most talented. But, full of determined characters, it must have been bloody horrible to face. Beating them was always a painful experience. I’m not so sure the same can be said right now.

Sheffield United's performance against Burton Albion raises a number of questions ©2016 Sport Image all rights reserved

Adkins was right to remove the velvet gloves and clunk his iron fist ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Fleetwood Town. He has been extremely loyal and protective towards his players but, in recent months, received nothing in return. They can do much more for him but what can he do for them? Well, resisting the temptation to change systems and shape, particularly during fixtures, would be a start. Dabbling with different ideas is understandable, forgivable even, given the need to discover a winning formula but, unfortunately, counter-productive at this level of the game. Devise a ‘Plan A’ and ‘Plan B’. Possibly a ‘Plan C’ even. But draw the line at ‘D’ and ‘E’.

Good players need coaching. Not-so-good ones, and without being disrespectful there are plenty of those in League One, need organising as well.

The most important lesson United should learn from their abysmal showing against Albion is that tactical discipline, simplicity and yes, the b***s to confront a challenge, can take you an awful long way.