Five challenges ahead for new Sheffield United manager
Sheffield United are searching for their ninth permanent manager in as many years after parting company with Nigel Adkins.
Here are five key problems the former Scunthorpe, Southampton and Reading chief's successor must address in order to achieve promotion at Bramall Lane.
1) Improve the club's track record and deliver better value for money in the transfer market: United have developed an expensive habit of investing huge sums in players whose careers have either flatlined or are on a downward curve. Many, although by no means all of these, have been acquired from Championship or Premier League clubs. The lower divisions are stuffed full of young, fresh or exciting talents who would find it almost impossible to turn a move to United down. They would inject some much needed vibrancy into the squad, bring some nuts-and-bolts know-how and cost a damn sight less than many of those currently on the pay roll as well.
2) Sign some leaders: United have plenty of talented players at their disposal. Most, if not all of the squad which finished 11th in the League One table last term are good blokes too. But nice guys don't necessarily win promotions or trophies. There are some touch characters at Bramall Lane who are willing to engage opponents into the trenches if required. But not enough.
3) Establish a concrete system and pattern of play: Yes, all the best teams are flexible. Yes, to deliver consistent results players must be able to think for themselves and adapt to the different challenges which arise during the course of a season or even a game. But United seem to have spent much of the past nine months searching for framework which suits the options at their disposal. The incessent changes, which only ceased during the closing stages of the campaign, have confused many neutral observers. Not to mention, if some performances are anything to go by, some players too.
4) Give the team a nasty streak: Opponents used to fear coming to Bramall Lane. Inevitably, the longer the club stayed in League One, the more this fear factor wore off. But on too many occasions last season, visiting teams seemed to positively enjoy the experience. That can not be allowed to happen again next term. If United's players start matches on the front foot and then, as much as is humanly possible, stay on it throughout, the crowd will respond in kind.
5) Re-engage with the fans: Speaking of the crowd, Adkins failed to establish a rapport with United supporters. A thoroughly decent guy, many welcomed the appointment of such an upbeat character after criticising Nigel Clough for his supposedly downbeat approach. But the very same people quickly tired off his positive messages and buzzwords. Especially when results started to go south.