Sheffield United: James Shield’s Weekly Column

Blades boss Danny Wilson
Blades boss Danny Wilson

“FIRE in you belly and ice around the ear holes.”

That was Danny Wilson’s memorably succinct response when asked what qualities his Sheffield United side must show in order to deliver promotion.

Of course, though, a player’s personality is not the only critical factor in what is proving a gruelling and congested race for the Championship.

The transfer business conducted by those seven or so clubs harbouring ambitions of leaving League One through the front door, particularly during the two most recent ‘windows,’ will also decide which two cross the finishing line first.

As strange and improbable as it sounds, United appear to have emerged from these latest rounds of wheeling and dealing better equipped to press ahead despite losing their leading goalscorer Nick Blackman.

Jonathan Forte, Jamie Murphy - unfortunately both nursing groin injuries at present - and Dominic Poleon have injected some much needed pace into a previously talented but pedestrian looking squad.

Forte is clearly a physically stronger and much more polished performer than the one who left South Yorkshire in 2007. Poleon, as Wilson acknowledges, is raw but blessed with self-belief.

However, the English game’s obsession with athleticism means another important ingredient, added by fellow new arrivals Barry Robson and Danny Higginbotham, has been largely over-looked.

Because speed of thought is as important as speed of foot. Intelligence will always conquer industry.

In Robson, the former Celtic and Middlesbrough midfielder, United have acquired a player with a seemingly telepathic understanding of how any given move will unfold.

Higginbotham previously of Manchester United, Derby County, Stoke City and Southampton, might resemble an extra from Spartacus.

But a few moments in his company reveal an eloquent and fastidious professional who, like Robson, still possess a burning desire to succeed.

The 1351.5 hours worth of experience they have accumulated, since making their respective debuts in 1997, should also prove a valuable asset both in the heat of battle and behind closed doors when the moment of reckoning approaches.

It would be wrong to label these five new arrivals as the only catalyst for United’s recent upturn in form.

Second in the table following Tuesday’s disappointing but hardly disastrous draw with Leyton Orient, they visit Oldham Athletic tomorrow having taken 13 points from their last five outings.

The return of time-served names such as Neill Collins and Matt Hill has undoubtedly helped. Likewise the more forthright approach adopted by colleagues such as Kevin McDonald, Michael Doyle, Tony McMahon and Ryan Flynn too.

Confidence, meanwhile, is perhaps the most potent weapon in United’s armoury at present.

When levels are low, it is a team’s worst enemy. When they are high, its best friend.

*Twitter: JamesShield1