Blades looking to recapture early season highs - Interview
Tuesday, 20th Feb 2018 11:52 by Clive Whittingham
Sheff Utd blogger George Howson assesses the Blades’ excellent return to the second tier ahead of tonight’s meeting with QPR at Bramall Lane.
How would you assess your first season back at this level? Presumably very pleased...
Our start to the season was better than anybody could've dreamed for. We were looking like major contenders for promotion with huge wins against Wolves and Leeds. Since then, results have been harder to come by, albeit we've not been playing as poorly as the run would suggest. We've still got a shot at the play-offs, but even if we don't make top six, this has been a fantastic campaign by anybody's standards.
A slight downturn seemed to occur after the Coutts injury at Burton - is he that important or was it just a return to where this team should be?
Paul Coutts is the best passer of the football I've ever seen in a United shirt and undoubtedly one of the best in the division. That being said, we had been punching about our weight, team spirit, effort and cohesion can only get you so far, sometimes you need a bit of magic to win a game. Given our budget, we should be scrapping it out for relegation, so to be where we are is a might achievement.
How do you see the rest of the season going? Promotion a realistic aim?
Our season will go one of two ways, and the next few games will give us a good idea which path it will go down. We could rediscover our form with the new signings starting to gel and make the play-offs or we could drop off and fade into mid-table obscurity. I think we'll achieve the former scenario, promotion is a realistic aim but our only good chance is via the play-offs.
Player of the season candidates?
Leon Clarke soared to the top of the goal-scoring charts early in the season but has dropped off significantly since. George Baldock at wing-back has been quality since Kieron Freeman's injury, while John Fleck has been as impressive in the midfield as ever. The award, if it was to be given our now though, has to go to Mark Duffy. The attacking midfielder has been sensational this campaign, at times absolutely unplayable, he's been the difference. Whether he's scoring the goals himself, or setting them up with a free-kick or defence-splitting ball, he's always a threat.
Weak links in the team?
Perhaps the biggest weak-link in the team is our goalkeeper right now. Simon Moore is still suspended, while Jamal Blackwell is likely still injured, so Jake Eastwood could start on Tuesday. The academy graduate has shown quality in what little we've seen of him so far, but his inexperience at this level does worry me. Aside from that, Enda Stevens hasn't been performing the best recently, nor has Clarke, who is arguably still riding the wave of his early season performances.
Pictures – Action Images
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