Sheffield United: Mark Duffy ready to show Wigan Athletic boss what might have been
It could have been the start of something beautiful but, thanks to Gary Roberts, the relationship between Mark Duffy and Paul Cook finished before it had really even begun.
"I was a brief period," Duffy, the Sheffield United midfielder said, remembering his spell on loan with Chesterfield. I'd gone there to play games and they had a player injured, Gary, who got fitter than expected..
"He was Paul's star player so I didn't get much time. His style of football would have suited me down to the ground but it wasn't meant to be."
Three years on from that frustrating experience and two since arriving at Bramall Lane, Duffy is set to renew Cook's acquaintance when his Wigan Athletic side visit United on Saturday.
The match, which brings together two of the Championship's most attack-minded teams, provides Duffy with another opportunity to showcase the talents which, after harnessed by Chris Wilder, have seen him become a key figure in the hosts' push for the Premier League.
"There won't be anything personal going on," he continued.
"Gary was Paul's man and that was fair enough, so you'd expect him to go with him.
"I only worked under Paul for a short time but it was long enough to know how he likes to go about things; playing 4-2-3-1, playing through the lines and getting the ball into the 'Number 10' areas."
Cook was not the first manager to miss Duffy's potential.Â Lee Clark and Gary Rowett both used him sparingly during two difficult years with Birmingham City.
But, after signing him on a free transfer following his release from St Andrews, Wilder has made Duffy an integral part of a squad which lifted the League One title two seasons ago and challenged for the play-offs last term.
"They are similar to how we were when we got promoted," Duffy said, referring to Wigan's match out of the third tier earlier this year.#
"They play a good brand of football, the like to pass it and you always have that momentum when you come up because everyone has that feelgood factor.
'We did last time but now, hopefully, we've taken it on another stage.
"We know what they will bring but we will attack every game how we want to play. We won't change for nobody."
United have prepared for the contest ranked third in the table, following Tuesday's draw with Stoke City.
Despite the expensive array of talent at the Staffordshire club's disposal, Wilder's men dominated for long periods and took the lead through Leon Clarke.
But, after failing to press home their superiority, conceded a late equaliser.
Duffy, speaking at the Steelphalt Academy on Thursday, admitted the fixture had revealed both United's strengths and areas where they must improve.Â
"The gaffer says '˜the names on the back of the shirts aren't going to win games', it's the work you put in on the training ground," he said.
"It is a tough division, and you put on a run of good games and you can shoot up the table.
"It shows how far the team has come that we are disappointed with drawing with someone like Stoke, who have just come down (from the Premier League). They were jumping for joy, delighted with a point, but it felt like a loss for us.
"We were all disappointed, none more so than the manager, he sees the hard work that we have put in.
"He just wants us to get the rewards we deserve, it's about being more clinical in both boxes.
'If we get that right, it will be a good season."