Column: McCabe's symbolic show of faith in Sheffield United boss Adkins

It's not a promise and it's got to be a long shot at best, but at least it shows willing.

Thursday, 25th February 2016, 11:00 am
Alan Biggs with Sheffield United co-owner Kevin McCabe

Across the table from Kevin McCabe I hear these words on the subject of Nigel Adkins: “I’d love to believe he’ll be with us for five years!”

This from a man who has employed eight managers, excluding caretakers, in the nine years since Sheffield United exited the Premier League. It’s a startling statement from the Blades co-chairman and, looking into his eyes, I’m sure a genuine one.

But not perhaps as significant as the basic pledge that, barring something totally catastrophic, Adkins will be in charge next season.

Now that’s what I call truly symbolic - an acknowledgment, finally, that this club can’t keep sacking managers.

“One doesn’t want to change them,” said long-time owner McCabe. “Nigel was chosen for a reason and we believe he’s the right man.”

The “five-year” wish merely embroidered the “definite intention” to maintain the status quo.

Kevin McCabe believes Nigel Adkins is the right man to lead Sheffield United

It won’t be what some want to hear, of course.

Adkins and his players should not be scrambling to get into the play-offs.

A section have called for his head.

Yet I’m convinced the majority agree on what got United into this League One intertia and, yes, for five years too.

McCabe regrets sacking a "good manager" in current Chesterfield boss Danny Wilson

And talking of agreement, McCabe is echoing what co-chair Jim Phipps, Prince Abdullah’s aide, previously told this column on Adkins, so the joint owners are together on a fundamental issue despite those rumours of a rift.

Probing this point, I asked McCabe if the Prince, after investing £15m for no reward so far, is prepared to put in more.

“Circumstances can change,” he answered, not committing either way which leaves a doubt for now.

“But we work in harmony.

Kevin McCabe believes Nigel Adkins is the right man to lead Sheffield United

“We may have our differences but we are good friends.

“We argue but we don’t fall out. I assure you the Prince’s pleasure in life is about seeing us succeed.”

While United’s Saudi backer is currently “as frustrated as I am,” McCabe remains fully committed to the extent of his family’s £90m input.

He talks of not repeating past mistakes and makes a major confession over his most controversial axing, the dismissal of Danny Wilson while a second successive promotion bid was still in progress three years ago.

“I regret that one - Danny’s a good manager,” said McCabe of the current Chesterfield boss.

That “one” means he doesn’t necessarily regret others, including the ousting of the relatively very successful Nigel Clough, who returns with League One leaders Burton next Tuesday.

McCabe regrets sacking a "good manager" in current Chesterfield boss Danny Wilson

Without pinpointing, McCabe said there were “other reasons” beyond results, adding: “One of the problems with Nigel was we gave him too much money.”

Which can equally be taken as a self-criticism and clearly also a reference to McCabe’s belief that too many players of similar quality have been recruited in the recent past.

He rates this the club’s biggest mistake and insists that future arrivals, in a “very important” summer window, “add value to the squad.” For Adkins, controls have clearly tightened.

Personally, I still think the judgment on Clough was very harsh on his record. Maybe Adkins will get the benefit of the reflective mood.

Not before time maybe but removing managerial uncertainty from the agenda has to be a move in the right direction.

As is McCabe fronting up to the challenges facing a club to which his commitment has always been fierce and total.