Nigel Adkins has warned that every member of Sheffield United’s first team squad is fighting for survival at Bramall Lane.
Adkins, the United manager, is expected to overhaul the club’s playing staff this summer following a frustrating first season in charge.
Although several high profile names are set to depart when their contracts expire, the former Scunthorpe and Southampton chief admitted others could also be axed if they fail to show the necessary “heart and desire” between now and May.
“Everyone plays for their future,” Adkins, whose team demonstrated both during Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Walsall, said.
“Every game you play, you have to view it as your last one, because one day, it will be.
“Players who are out of contract are striving to get another contract. Players who are under contract will be striving to make sure they stay here. This football club will eventually get back to the top level again, eventually. When that happens, everyone should want to be part of that.”
Adkins, who was only unveiled as Nigel Clough’s successor 10 months ago, missed United’s final training session for the meeting with Walsall due to a throat infection and, having tasked Andy Crosby with undertaking the pre-match media duties, also allowed his assistant to reflect on their most impressive performance of 2016.
Chris Basham and Billy Sharp were on target as United climbed to eighth in the table after beating the division’s third placed side.
“People have written us off but I thought the players went out there and out on a fantastic performance,” Crosby said.
“We got off to a good start and controlled long periods of the game with an without the ball. Walsall are a very good team and have been superb away from home this season but we made them look very ordinary out there.”
“It was a game we had to win to take things forward,” Crosby added. “The lads showed tremendous character after a disappointing result (at Southend) in midweek. We only got back in the very early hours of Thursday morning and Walsall basically had a fortnight to prepare. That’s not a sob story, it’s a fact. But they were, I thought, superb out there.”