Manager moves - Is Micky the man for Sheffield United?
There have been so many managerial changes in the Football League recently that Mike Holden has had trouble keeping up with them all! Thankfully, he’s back on the case now and continues his examination of the decisions made by chairmen up and down the country with the Sheffield United question. Is Micky Adams the right man?
In an ideal world, Sheffield United would have found closure on the Carlos Tevez saga by winning promotion when opportunity knocked at Wembley two years ago. But football and justice have never been the most comfortable bedfellows and now the Blades are coming to terms with an altogether different picture of where they stand in football’s pecking order.
When Kevin Blackwell offered his resignation in the wake of that play-off defeat to Burnley, he knew how difficult the job would become without the benefit of parachute payments. United had missed their cue and now the consequences are perhaps most painfully evident in a dismal home record that sees the points-per-game ratio dwindling in line with attendances. It’s hard to know which one is cause and which is effect.
Either way, it’s clear that Bramall Lane is no longer one of those venues that opponents don’t fancy because an acute sense of apathy has set in. However, as little as it may have seemed at the time, Blackwell served a purpose by staying on to oversee the inevitable decline.
By fighting the losing battle and taking the flak for another 14 months, he bought Gary Speed a little longer to learn the ropes and spared him the toughest imaginable baptism to management, while providing the fans with a figure to direct their inevitable frustration towards. It was pretty obvious long before the 3-0 defeat to QPR back in August that Blackwell was a dead man walking and Speed was the ideal shot-to-nothing for a club working to a tight budget.
With four years experience behind the scenes, the time was right for Speed to make the step up and stamp his own identity on the team by injecting some fresh ideas from a steady platform of continuity. Things didn’t go according to plan and though 18 games was hardly ample time to be casting lasting judgements, the relief seemed palpable all round when the Welsh FA came calling in December.
Faced with the prospect of admitting they had made a mistake, United were loathe to sack Speed so early into his reign. But faced with the prospect of saving face and receiving compensation, they could acknowledge to themselves that his initial impact had fallen some way short of expectation. For Speed, you suspect the job proved much tougher than he ever imagined. For all of his mental preparation, it hadn’t prepared him enough, which probably goes to show the depth of depression around the place.
As a rookie, Speed’s credentials were exemplary. It seemed inevitable that chairman Kevin McCabe would turn to a man of much greater experience in light of how the Welshman struggled to get to grips with the task. Now, as unimaginative as the decision might be, it’s difficult to argue with the idea of Micky Adams as a safe and solid appointment.
Looking at his career path, you could argue that Adams’ best years are behind him but he ticks all the right boxes in terms of what United require because the job he did at Port Vale was exactly the job he needs to do with United, albeit two divisions further up. With little money to spend, he must galvanise the club with a fighting spirit and, as a born and bred Blade, you suspect he will know exactly which buttons to push in order to get everybody pulling in the same direction by delivering a team that the supporters can once again identify with.
Much will obviously depend on what he does in the transfer market and a string of permanent signings could be fundamental in his ability to manipulate minds and get his personal passion across. United have hammered the loan market since the parachute money dried up and it’s getting them nowhere. In Adams, they possess a man who knows the lower leagues and can identify the right players at the right prices, men who will sweat blood for the opportunity to carve out the best years of their career with a club of this stature.
Promotion might be out the question – for at least a couple of years – but Adams can at least recover some sense of identity by summoning the spirit of the Dave Bassett and Neil Warnock eras, and bringing that nasty streak back to Bramall Lane.