Sheffield United: Clough rubbishes distraction claims

Sheffield United are preparing to host Bradford City and Fulham at Bramall Lane
Sheffield United are preparing to host Bradford City and Fulham at Bramall Lane

Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has denied his team’s FA Cup exploits are a distraction as they battle for League One survival.

United, who beat Aston Villa in the third round earlier this month, enter tomorrow’s Yorkshire derby with Bradford City hoping to avoid a third defeat in four outings after losing at Notts County last weekend.

That result left Clough’s side just a point above the relegation zone with 21 games left to play.

But, refuting claims United have taken their foot off the pedal, he said: “The only thing on our minds is securing our place in the division as soon as possible and then moving up towards half way from there. Nothing else, that’s the only thing we are focused on at the moment.

“When we were on a good run, other people might have wanted to talk about doing this or doing that. Not us. Our priority has never changed from day one.”

United, who host Fulham in the fourth round following their victory Norwich City earlier this week, reported no fresh injury concerns following the visit to Meadow Lane although Clough was combining preparations for the match with manoeuvres in the transfer market. Phil Parkinson, his counterpart at Valley Parade, is expected to include new signing Aaron McLean in City’s starting eleven after signing the former Peterborough, Hull and Leyton Orient marksman yesterday.

With Doncaster Rovers, Billy Paynter’s parent club, expected to refuse permission for him to feature against Fulham, Clough conceded United could deliberately put their recruitment plans on ice if other teams follow suit.

“Fortunately, we have got everyone fit at the moment,” he said. “It doesn’t look as if Billy will be able to play but he’s with us until the end of the season anyway.

“Initially, if people want to do shorter deals to begin with, then unless they can take part (in the FA Cup) then we may as well wait until after that is out of the way.”

*Twitter: @JamesShield1