Sheffield United: Clough’s long-term vision and short-term aim

Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough and The Star's James Shield. � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough and The Star's James Shield. � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Sheffield United, as folk have long suspected, began making plans for Nigel within hours of severing their ties with David Weir, writes James Shield.

Now, after finally revealing South Yorkshire sport’s worst kept secret, they can start putting them to effect.

Clough, previously of Burton Albion and Derby County, tackled subjects ranging from tactics to transfer policy during his official unveiling at Bramall Lane yesterday. Perhaps the most revealing answer United’s new manager gave, though, was in response to a question about the type of football he likes to play.

“We’ve always tried to go about our work in the right manner,” Clough said. “With young, vibrant, energetic and hungry players.

“Believe it or not, there aren’t that many of those around. They are becoming less and less because that hunger, due to the rewards in this business now, is on the wane.

“Mind you, of course there are exceptions. You need everyone at a club, from eight-years-old upwards, being schooled in the correct manner and doing the right things.”

Clough, who will be joined by his trusted lieutenants Gary Crosby and Andy Garner, arrives with a reputation for identifying and developing home-grown talent. Nevertheless, despite underlining the importance of strategic thinking, the former England international acknowledged United’s position towards the foot of the League One table means long-term visions must, for the time being at least, be sacrificed in favour of short-term gains.

“There are a lot of similarities here with Derby,” he continued. “We left a good youth system there and we’ve already got one here.

“You need everyone working towards the same goal - from under-15, under-16’s and under-18’s right the way through - but at the moment that’s something to think about in our spare time. The main thing is to start improving our situation.”

Clough, aged 47, spent four years in charge of County before being relieved of his duties last month. United, who parted company with Weir nearly a fortnight later, enter this weekend’s visit of Crewe Alexandra 21st in the table following Tuesday’s draw at second-placed Peterborough.

Clough inherited a similar situation at Pride Park when, following more than a decade in charge of Albion, he swapped a Conference promotion battle for a Championship survival scrap. Having duly preserved County’s second tier status, Clough, the 2010/11 season excepted, improved their ranking year on year despite diminishing financial resources.

However, describing United’s recent performances against Port Vale and Darren Ferguson’s side as “very good,” Clough paid tribute to caretaker Chris Morgan for ensuring the club’s predicament is not even more precarious after its wretched start to the campaign. Morgan, co-owner Kevin McCabe has insisted, will be “a material part” of United’s coaching team.

“Don’t underestimate what Chris has done,” Clough said. “When you’ve not won in a while, to go out and get a result in front of 18 and a half thousand people before following that up with a clean sheet on the road is great.

“Chris has been here a long-time, he’s got a lot of knowledge and that’s why his input is going to be important.”

Clough, who represented Nottingham Forest, Liverpool and Manchester City as a player before forging his reputation as a coach, is also set to work closely with older brother and scouting specialist Simon.

“We’ve been watching football together, going to games with each other,” Clough said. “For 40 years.”

*Twitter: @JamesShield1