From studying the terrain around corner flags before deciding set-piece strategy to monitoring his team’s eating pattern after games, Nigel Adkins is obsessed by detail.
But now, as the weather takes a turn for the worse, the Sheffield United manager revealed his approach has become even more forensic twist. Coaching staff at the Steelphalt Academy are dispensing advice on the type of boots players wear throughout the week and during matches themselves.
“We’ve had conversations about footwear,” Adkins, confirming Marc McNulty is nursing a groin strain sustained during a training ground incident, said. “These days, most people seem to prefer blades on the bottom but the time has come, with the conditions, when it’s sensible to consider slightly longer studs which give them a better grip.
“The ground right now, especially at our place, is quite firm below the surface but wet on top. That’s nature but it means players can sometimes find it difficult to plant their feet properly. It’s easy to slip when you are changing direction quickly and then you get these problems which keep you out of games.”
Adkins, whose side host sixth-placed Rochdale at Bramall Lane today, confirmed more traditional matters have also featured prominently on the agenda following last weekend’s defeat by Port Vale saw United slip to seventh in the League One table.
“We need to keep more clean sheets, that’s for certain, and that’s something we’ve looked to address,” Adkins, who is set to be without centre-half David Edgar for the visit of Keith Hill’s side, said. “But it’s not about the lads at the back, it’s about the team as a whole because the teams who defend best are those who defend from the front.
“Thirty per cent of goals are scored from set-plays and everybody is involved in those. We entered our last game level as the leading scorers in the league. We’ve spoken about it and we know what we’ve got to do.
“We will achieve what we want to achieve. We’re just as little bit inconsistent at the moment although, on our day, we’ve been alright. Everything is about the collective.”
Adkins, meanwhile, believes Tuesday evening’s JP Trophy victory over Notts County could represent a turning point in United’s battle to select from a near full-strength squad.
“It’s good because we had a lot of players coming back who had been unavailable for selection,” he said. “Matt Done had a super game, Che Adams was superb too as well as Jamal (Campbell-Ryce) who has missed a few. There’s a front three there who, when you add them to Billy Sharp, Conor Sammon and Stefan Scougall too, who give us great options.”
“It’s important to get players back and give them game time,” Adkins added. “Harrison McGahey, for example, got 90 minutes and we need that competition for places.
“Neill (Collins) was the only player not selected the other night. If we hadn’t have only needed five subs then we’d have been one short.”