Sheffield United: Shrewd and very sensible

Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Honesty, integrity and a willingness to confront some of his profession’s most taxing problems, writes James Shield.

Three traits which, according to Adam Pearson, make Nigel Clough a solid, sensible appointment at Bramall Lane.

Clough inherited a complex set of issues when he took charge of Sheffield United earlier this week.

But, outlining the former Derby County manager’s qualities, Pearson explained why his erstwhile colleague and the League One club should prove an exemplary fit.

“Nigel is a straight-forward guy,” Pearson, previously executive chairman and major shareholder at Pride Park, told The Star last night. “So long as you are straight-forward with him then he will be straight-forward with you.

“Plus, and most importantly, he is very good at his job. Nigel has got substance.”

Pearson was responsible for Clough’s arrival in the East Midlands when, midway through the 2008/09 season, he persuaded him to leave Burton Albion after over a decade at the helm.

Like United, who enter tomorrow’s visit of Crewe Alexandra having won only two of their previous 16 games, County were languishing at the wrong end of the table having parted company with Paul Jewell. Clough duly steered them to safety before, against a backdrop of sometimes frenzied cost-cutting, preserving his employer’s Championship status for the next four campaigns.

Pearson, who resigned his position at County to “pursue new challenges” nine months after extricating Clough from the Pirelli Stadium, said: “Nigel is good at building relationships. That includes between the board, the players and also the supporters.

“Often, you find someone who can connect with one of those groups but not all. It’s increasingly important given the nature of the game these days.”

“In the dressing room,” Pearson, now owner of rugby league outfit Hull FC, continued. “He likes to build a strong group. Nigel puts a lot of emphasis on team spirit and a collective mentality.

“He’ll treat players like men but also expects them to behave accordingly. And he’s big on responsibility too.

“His players will be given a framework to work within. But they’ll be given responsibility for their own performances.

“If you are right with Nigel then he’s always right with you. Try to trip him up, though, and it’s a different matter.”

United, 21st despite Tuesday’s creditable draw at Peterborough, unveiled Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad as their new co-owner five weeks before parting company with David Weir.

Although the Saudi Arabian’s financial resources will be placed at Clough’s disposal, the Football League’s decision to adopt Salary Cost Management Protocol means the 47-year-old must adopt an imaginative approach towards recruitment.

Having represented Nottingham Forest, Liverpool and Manchester City before becoming Albion’s player/manager during their stint in the Southern Premier Division, Clough has put that breadth of experience to good use by making a number of astute signings, Dean Moxey and John Brayford included, while also making judicious use of the loan market.

A reputation for nurturing home-grown talent also caught the eye of United’s directors when County controversially dismissed Clough last month.

“From my experience, there is no one better at working to a budget than Nigel,” Pearson said. “He’s not the type of person who you will see going to the papers demanding more and more money.

“He’s sensible like that, will go about his business in the proper way and is very, very good at bringing youngsters through the ranks.

“If he feels they are up to the job then he will put them in, use them and look after them.”

Clough became United’s seventh permanent manager since 2007 when he was officially unveiled 48 hours ago and Pearson added: “The other thing Nigel brings is stability and longevity.”

*Twitter: @JamesShield1