Sheffield United: Blades facing cup dilemma

Nigel Adkins
Nigel Adkins

Tomorrow, a little over 72 hours after opening their league campaign with a heavy defeat at Gillingham, Sheffield United face Morecambe in the Capital One Cup.

The team Nigel Adkins inherited two months ago has enjoyed a love-hate affair with knockout competitions of late.

Reaching the last four of both major domestic tournaments in successive seasons has provided some wonderful memories and, importantly for the bean-counters, pounds, shillings and pence.

Those runs to Wembley and White Hart Lane were also blamed, in some quarters at least, for contributing towards United’s failure to win promotion in both 2014 and earlier this year.

So is it time for Adkins to redraw Bramall Lane’s relationship with the cups and take a more pragmatic approach whereby progress is sacrificed so senior members of his squad can focus on more pressing concerns instead?

United will be entering dangerous territory if they pick and choose which battles to try to win. But their new manager left himself room for manoeuvre when the question was posed last week.

Statistically, the case for an early exit is compelling. In the last five seasons, 10 different teams have won automatic promotion from League One. Only twice has one gone beyond the second round of the Capital One Cup.

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Sixty per cent have fallen at the first hurdle in the JP Trophy while 90 per cent failed to clear the second fence.

Nobody who respects football’s traditions would advocate deliberately following suit. But there is a middle ground.

United will surely be forced to trim their squad before the end of the transfer window. Why not use this competition to showcase some of those talents who could be allowed to depart this month?