IF their supporters feared Sheffield United would crumble in the wake of Sunday’s Steel City derby defeat, they need only have looked into Steve Simonsen’s eyes for reassurance.
Asked whether Danny Wilson’s side possess the strength of character required to bounce back from a chastening result at Hillsborough, the visitors’ goalkeeper cast his inquisitor a stony gaze and produced a unequivocal, one-word answer. “Yes.”
Nearly two decades of playing the most demanding role in the business have equipped Simonsen with a impenetrable shell to protect against criticism. Despite conceding the only goal of the game when Chris O’Grady converted with 17 minutes remaining, the former England under-21 international, castigated earlier this term following a series of errors, actually embellished his reputation by proving unflappable under Sheffield Wednesday’s aerial bombardment.
Simonsen spoke of “drawing a line” and “moving on” when he discussed events with the press after tasting defeat for only the seventh time in League One competition since August. Indeed, United prepare for tomorrow’s game against Scunthorpe knowing that on only three occasions this season have they failed to win after a setback.
Keith Edwards, the former United striker, told The Star last night: “I wouldn’t want anyone other than Danny in charge at the moment. He’s shown he can say the right things to the right players at the right times.
“Some people might need picking up a bit and this is when a manager and his staff earn their corn. But the fact that United have only had disappointing results so far under him rather than disappointing runs
speaks volumes. No professional ever likes losing but you have to accept it happens and respond.”
Every aspect of Sunday’s contest – from the body language of coaching staff to the words they uttered afterwards – are subjected to forensic levels of scrutiny given the emotions and
symbolism involved. More people watched United lock horns with Wednesday than were present at five Premier League fixtures last weekend and all of the Championship’s previous round of matches.
Even the crowd at Bramall Lane for a live ‘beam-back’ outstripped those at eight other games in English football’s third tier and 10 a division below.
But it would be unwise to read too much into one single result. United prepare to entertain Alan Knill’s side second in the table, two points ahead of third-placed Wednesday having played two games less, and enjoying a four-point advantage over Huddersfield Town in fourth who travel to Stevenage this evening.
“It was a poor second-half display against Wednesday but sharp reminders of what can go wrong are often no bad thing when you are a player,” Edwards said. “I know from experience they’ll be pleased there’s another game coming up quickly.”