Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, says character and calibre are prerequisites for any player hoping to secure a long-term future at Bramall Lane, writes James Shield.
And Clough, speaking ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup first round tie with Colchester, used the South Yorkshire club’s decision to extend Simon Lappin’s loan from Cardiff City to emphasise his point.
The former Derby County and Burton Albion chief inherited a squad with an average of just 23.4 after being unveiled as David Weir’s permanent successor two weeks ago and said: “It’s very important, vitally important in fact, to have the right characters. Even more so when you have a lot of young players.”
“We were fortunate at Derby to have professionals like Robbie Savage and Gareth Roberts. They almost become mentors for those at the start of their careers or who are looking to push through.”
“Simon has been very professional since coming here,” Clough added. “Not only has he impressed us on the pitch but he has also impressed us with how he works off it too.
“You can say to youngsters ‘Look at what Simon does.’ ‘Watch how he does his job.’
“He isn’t, I hasten to add, the only person like that here. But it’s crucial young players have good role models.”
Although Clough confirmed he wanted to encourage “enjoyment” and “expression” after replacing Weir, United’s players have been told they must also adhere to a code of conduct which punishes breaches of discipline before, during and after games. Winger Febian Brandy, who begins a four match suspension at the West Homes Community Stadium, was fined earlier this week having collected his second red card of the season during the recent defeat by Shrewsbury Town.
“We will be reinforcing that message,” Clough said. “Certainly, Febian will be a lot poorer is it’s a message he doesn’t heed.”