Nigel Adkins has challenged his players to demonstrate they are capable of representing Sheffield United after appearing to question whether every member of the League One club’s squad possesses the mental strength to perform at Bramall Lane.
Despite being installed as the pre-season title favourites, United enter tomorrow’s game at Fleetwood Town 12th in the table with only 12 games remaining and trailing sixth-placed Coventry City by four points.
With Tuesday’s performance against Burton Albion doing nothing to suggest they are capable of forcing themselves back into promotion contention, Adkins said: “This is a fantastic football club. You’ve got to handle the responsibility of that. Play in a manner that gets wins and excites the crowd. Perhaps that (lack of character) is becoming more evident. We have a responsibility to this community and this football club.
“Talk is cheap. You’ve got to go out there and do it.”
Adkins’ brutally frank comments following the 1-0 defeat by Burton marked a change in approach from the 50-year-old who has been reluctant to publicly criticise his players since taking charge nine months ago.
Despite praising aspects of their performance at Rochdale three days earlier, he added: “I’ve tried to protect the players but when you are here you’ve got to give everything. We still have an opportunity, we are still in there fighting. But there needs to be change because that, last time out, wasn’t good enough.
“But we have to find the solutions. In fairness, rather than just focusing or complaining about what people can’t do, which is what tends to happen in tough times, it’s better to remind people of what they actually can do instead. What they are good at. There’s no point in dwelling. We’ve discussed things and we move on because, the beauty of football is that there’s always another game coming up.
“We still have something to play for this season. It’s important to remember that. There is still a prize up for grabs which is promotion.”