A Scandinavian view on the Blades
|Posted by Bergen Blade on August 15, 2016 at 5:45 AM||comments (0)|
By all accounts, Chris Wilder's preferred formation at Northampton was 4-2-3-1. After joining the Blades he stated that he had a preferred system, although he didn't actually say which one. But he did reveal he would be signing players to fit the system, not vice versa. After the Blades seemed to play most pre season games with a 4-2-3-1 system most Blades assumed that would be Wilder's preference.
In the final pre season game vs Derby we lined up like this:
On paper, and to some extent in the pre season matches, it looked exciting. The three players behind Sharp had been roaming, swapping positions and playing fast, exciting football and all looked like goal threats. A wingless formation, the width was supposed to come from the full backs, which Wilder suggested would be the best in the division. Fleck was the new playmaker, backed up by the work rate of Basham. In Adkins' teams only the two strikers looked like goal threats, but in the above team goals looked like they could come from all over. Done, McNulty, Duffy, Sharp, Adams, Calvert-Lewin, Scougall all looked able to get goals, and further signings were expected to improve us even more.
But then we signed Leon Clarke. After originally looking for a target man type striker as a plan B, a cheap (?) squad player likely to be used from the bench, Wilder suddenly found himself having signed one of the top scorers from last season. With Billy Sharp (21 goals last season) and Clarke (18 ) it became too tempting not to use them both. Clarke gave the team some added height and strength, which the above team admittedly lacked.
But so far it hasn't worked. At Bolton I think Wilder still would call his formation 4-2-3-1, with Clarke in a bit withdrawn role behind Sharp. But with Clarke included it becomes natural, or tempting, to make use of his target man qualities. Goal kicks and free kicks from our half were aimed at him, as was the odd long ball. For throw ins he came to flick it on. For crosses he had to be in the box. His role became very similar to that of an orthodox target man and vs Rochdale our formation looked very much like a narrow 4-4-2.
I was concerned of how this would tweak player roles. There was little of the clever link up play that had been seen by the likes of McNulty and Scougall in pre season. Vs Derby McNulty also worked hard defensively, helping out the often outnumbered Fleck and Basham centrally, but also tracking back to cover for Done and Duffy on occasions.
With Clarke and Sharp now playing effectively up front together, Done and Duffy have been forced to drop deeper and work harder defensively. This has reduced their attacking impact. Duffy hasn't had enough skilful teammates to interplay with and when Done has got into the box he hasn't been able to get on the end of things.
With two experienced *star* strikers up front I think it has become too tempting for the other players to look for them too early, too often. Vs Rochdale this saw us play a lot of long balls, rather than trying to build penetrative attacks with the pace and movement that Wilder's teams are known for. It became too predictable and easy for Rochdale's defence to deal with.
The opposition teams deserve some credit for stopping us. Bolton, Crewe and Rochdale have all lined up with 4-5-1 formations and tried to prevent us getting space to play in and run into. We have generally started well, pressing high up the pitch, but after 20-25 minutes the opposition have started to get into the game more. Do we tire? Is the style too physically demanding? Or do we struggle to counteract their counteraction, i.e stuff like this:
Both Bolton and Rochdale seemed to win a lot of throw ins down our left after hitting long balls up to this area. Even though they didn't always win the header, they were able to put us under so much pressure for the second ball that our players often just cleared it out for a throw in. The likes of Done and Fleck aren't the biggest and struggled with the bouncing balls in this area of the pitch. Bolton and Rochdale were able to stop our momentum, slow the game down and give their defence a break. Simple tactics, but effective.
These long balls also made it more difficult for us to press high the way we want to. When we tried, the opposition would often just play it backwards, until another long punt upfield came and this became the pattern of the game. No matter how much Done tried, and ran, he rarely got close enough, followed by having to get to get back to defend again. Frustrating!
Our answer to this was to go longer ourselves, especially vs Rochdale, and so the game became very scrappy. The team isn't quite equipped to play this way and it's not Wilder's style. We don't look happy defending deep. We'd need more solid wide men and more pace up front for a 4-4-2 to work, but maybe it will be easier to return to the formation and set up we practiced in the summer.
Some things for Wilder to consider
|Posted by Bergen Blade on August 3, 2016 at 3:40 PM||comments (2)|
Another season is about to start, and the Blades will make another attempt at getting promotion from League One. It's been a pretty busy summer at the Lane and Bolton away is our first away game. How will Wilder compose his team?
I think he may go with the line up that started in the last major pre season game vs Derby, which was this:
This means we'll line up with 4-2-3-1.
In goal George Long will start. Having let go of Howard, Long is now backed up by teenager Aaron Ramsdale, but if Long doesn't start well, we should expect a more experienced option to come in before the window closes.
Wilder will encourage the full backs to go forward and be our main providers of width. We're hoping John Brayford will rediscover the form he showed when he first joined us on loan. A full pre season should hopefully help. Chris Hussey will be our left back, having arrived from Bury. He's well known for his excellent crossing and quality set pieces.
At centre half we have another two new arrivals. Jack O'Connell has arrived from Brentford and James Wilson from Oldham. Both are mobile centre halves, something Wilder thinks will help us play a high pressing game. O'Connell never got a real chance at Brentford, while Wilson hasn't been able to realise his potential at Oldham. They should both be hungry and eager to do well, but they haven't had a long time to work on their partnership.
In central midfield new signing John Fleck will be our new playmaker. He's a small, but strong player with good passing ability. Alongside him, Chris Basham is likely to start and he'll work hard up and down the pitch, getting tackles in. Basham lacks creativity, and Wilder is looking for someone to provide more competition in this position, but Basham is currently the first choice alongside Fleck.
The three players behind the main striker (surely Sharp) are likely to contain Matt Done and Mark Duffy in wide roles, although they won't play as old fashioned wingers. Done is especially expected to get into the box and get on the end of things. Duffy is a clever, creative and skilful player and will try to set up chances for the other teammates. In the central attacking role Marc McNulty looks like starting. He's done quite well in this role in pre season, and it's good for him that he's not just a back up for Sharp as a striker. He's got decent all round qualities and is another goal threat.
Other options for the no 10 role is Stefan Scougall, Che Adams and Leon Clarke, but McNulty started vs Derby and didn't do badly. Scougall is back in the mix after being completely frozen out by Adkins. Although he's done well in pre season, I think he'll start on the bench. Che Adams has attracted a lot of interest this season, but as I write he remains a Blade and should also be on the bench vs Bolton.
Billy Sharp is newly appointed captain and it would be a shock if he wasn't to start up front.
* Will Leon Clarke start, and if so, in which position?
Leon Clarke is a new signing and Wilder may be tempted to include him. In that case he has to decide whether to play him in the withdrawn role behind Sharp, or switch to 4-4-2 and play Clarke and Sharp up front together.
Personally I feel the balance of the team looks better and more exciting in a 4-2-3-1. Wilder tried Clarke and Sharp together for 10-15 minutes against Derby, but had to change it again as we started being overrun. A formation switch will affect the roles of the likes of Done and Duffy and may reduce their attacking impact.
Anyway, we look far better equipped for a decent sesaon than what we did a year ago. I think we will create more chances, entertain more and score more goals, and Wilder will not put up with non performing individuals or tactics that's not working in the way that Adkins did.
|Posted by Bergen Blade on May 13, 2016 at 6:35 PM||comments (0)|
Chris Wilder is the new Blades manager after the club wasted little time in finding a replacement for the departed Nigel Adkins. Wilder has done a great job at Northampton, saving them from relegation and building a Championship winning side on limited resources. Most Blades will be interested in what differences will we see on the pitch at the Lane.
In terms of playing style Wilder seems to favour 4-2-3-1, but has also used 4-4-2. Northampton have played with high tempo and look to create and choose forward passing options, with quick forward movement into space as soon as they win the ball. Their counter attacking has been a strength. From what I've read, Wilder's playing style seems similar to Leicester's this season.
This article from last summer at Northampton also gives away some clues:
Chris Wilder says his recruitment efforts at Northampton Town this summer have attacking football in mind.
The Cobblers boss, who made former Bury midfielder Nicky Adams his second new signing ahead of the 2015/16 season on Friday, wants his side to play in an eye-catching fashion as he plots promotion from League Two.
Winger Alfie Potter, who was most recently at AFC Wimbledon, was Wilder's first capture and he believes that both new additions will fit in with his philosophy.
"We know the way we want to play, we want a high tempo, high intensity, attacking style that excites the fans," said Wilder to the official site.
"That is the way we play, energetic, forward running with talented players, and we need depth, quality and options to do that for 50 plus games a season.
"We are still developing the team and maybe the fact we have got Nicky has raised a few eyebrows.
"We have worked very hard to get this deal [Adams] done. A lot of work goes on from a lot of people here and we have got it over the line. We know a lot about him, he has won promotions and we feel that is important.
"He knows how to win and he has desire and ambition.
"We are still looking to add and I think a lack of depth let us down a little last season and we want to rectify that this time around.
"I'm delighted with the first two additions.
"They were key men we targeted and we have signed two players who are a good age and suit the way we want to play.
"Technically, mentally and physically they are very good, they have pace, they are creative and it has been a good few days for us."
I watched Northampton once this season, the cup game against Northwich, in which they struggled, but came back from 0-2 to win 3-2. It was a good cup tie and their enthusiasm was matched on the day, but you could still see what they were aiming to do.
Forward movement is key and while the two central midfielders hold back a lot of the time the front four are continuously trying to find good positions off the ball and making penetrative runs. Full backs overlap as well, especially Buchanan on the left. All players looked fit and mobile. Being an attacking side they struggled a bit when hit on the break.
There was nothing to suggest we'll play "hoof ball".
Personally I'm a lot more optimistic about next season now. Let's hope Wilder is able to identify the right type of players that fits into his system, but also have a bit more ability than what was the case at Northampton. A lot of Blades managers have been tempted to go for names, ex-players and pedigree, but Wilder seems to have a very modern, effective football philosophy and should have confidence in that and add players that suits the style.
What player changes will take place?
Quite a few. That would have been the case with Adkins as well, as many players are out of contract.
I think Wilder will be signing a target man. He's used one at previous clubs, and the Blades have missed aerial strength and someone to get on the end of crosses this season. I wouldn't rule out Sharp spearheading the attack either, and Northampton did play 4-4-2 in some games. Wilder will also have to bring in a couple of new centre halves, a left back and a couple of strong central midfielders who can play-make as well.
In the 4-2-3-1 the three players behind the striker seem to have played with a lot of freedom, roaming around and making penetrating runs, buzzing around the striker. I think at least a couple of creative, mobile players will be signed for these positions, but maybe Done and Adams could figure as well.
|Posted by Karl Haakon Bjerknes on March 5, 2016 at 7:40 AM||comments (0)|
KARL HÅKON BJERKNES vs TONY AGANA
I 2011 fikk jeg en ide om å intervjue Tony Agana i anledning en av mine reiser over for å oppleve Sheffield United live.
Medlemmer av Scandinavian Blades var med på å forme en intervju-guide som skulle danne grunnlaget for samtalen.
Av ulike årsaker fikk jeg aldri fullført nedskriving av intervjuet i 2011 og til slutt tok Lars Erik Bakken fra Drammen på seg jobben.
Takk for hjelpen, Lars Erik!
En stor takk til Tony Agana for at du stilte opp! (A big thanks to you, Tony Agana, for your time at the Copthorne that day)
Enjoy the reading!
Karl Håkon Bjerknes
TA: Thank you for taking the time and the effort to come across and to, you know, help spread the name of the Blades around the world, which is what we want. So hopefully, the club will recognize that, and you will always be welcome in Sheffield.
KH: I am trying my best, because there are not many people that support Sheffield United in Norway. They see Arsenal, they see Manchester United on television daily, and read about them in the newspapers. But Sheffield United gets maybe a small column once a week or something. However, it is much easier to spread the word with the internet and you have the Blades Player now.
TA: Absolutely, I mean that's the great thing about technology. It makes the world a little bit smaller. You can engage a little bit more closely with the football clubs, and whatever else you want to engage with.
KH: Yeah, everything is much easier now than let's say fifteen-twenty years ago.
TA: Yeah absolutely. One of the plusses of technology.
KH: Do you have a degree in technology?
TA: Yes. When I retired from football, I had a year thinking what I was going to do next. I decided to go to my local college to take the basic IT course. I have been working with computers since the late 90's, and quite found that I was enjoying it. I went to a course for a whole year full-time study foundation, and then I enjoyed that, and went on to get a full degree at Sheffield Hallam University. In Computer visualisation, so it's about computer graphics.
KH: So it took you 3-4 years to complete?
TA: It was about 4 years. It was 4 years at Hallam, and 1 year foundation. So actually it was 5 years out of football. Just concentrating on studies. Something my mommy always wanted me to do probably 20 years ago. Also, it is something I always wanted to do.
KH: Now you are working with computers daily?
TA: After I graduated, I was working with computers daily for 2 years for the University of Manchester. After that I was working for a private company in Sheffield that makes E-learning. All these platforms were coming out, maybe you have heard of WebCT and Blackboard? Basically, it is technology for education. I had 4 years doing that, in public and in private sector, 2 in each. And then Sheffield United came and asked me if I wanted to come on full-time, and 2 good years at Sheffield United on the Sales team as a Sales Manager. I enjoyed it and made a lot of contacts.
KH: Obviously, you must know many people around the club.
TA: Yeah, in the club and in and around the city. I made a fantastic amount of business contacts while I was working here. So in my opinion it was a good 2 years well spent.
KH: Let's talk a bit about football. In 1990 when Sheffield United played Leicester and were pushing for promotion. How would you describe the tone and the discussion in the dressing room? I have seen it a couple of times, and I just wonder how you experienced the situation.
TA: I have watched the video obviously a couple of times, and it is quite a funny situation. It shows the pressure in a half-time situation in an important match. And what it does to people mentally. You got so much going on and I think it was a non-conversation. I don't think anybody knew what was going on.
KH: No, you see the players go: What's happening now?
TA: Yeah, you could have actually just come in at half-time and nobody said anything, because there was that much going on in each individual’s head. Sorting out things that had happened in the first half. That might have been a bit more productive than actually trying to put more information into people’s minds. We were stung, we went 1-0 down and all of a sudden, we found ourselves at half-time 4-1 up. I think just the shock of that sort of rendered everybody a little bit speechless and a little bit tinged with madness for those 15 minutes. And when I say everyone, I mean just the manager. It was a non-conversation. Dave Bassett had something in his mind that he wanted to get across. That he felt was important, but probably did not articulate it the way that he normally would in a less pressurized situation. And Geoff Taylor, his number 2, probably thought he knew what Harry was talking about, but didn't. He was thinking about something else. And all of a sudden you have this non-conversation. Add to that that you only have 15 minutes or 10 minutes. You got to spend that time effectively. Then it's rushed as well, so it's not well thought through. You don’t have time to think it through, because we were 1-0 down so his half-time talk, you know during the first half he was getting his mind to what he was going to say when we are behind. And all of a sudden we are not only ahead, but we are well ahead. We have almost closed out the game by half-time. But again, that sort of throws his half-time.
KH: It's quite fun to talk about that situation when you are actually 3 goals up. He didn't have to bring it up.
TA: No, he didn't have to say anything. But I think it was the shock and the pressure of the situation. We had to win that game to secure promotion. After how many games we played before, that's pressure. When it all comes down to 1 game, 1 day. The ground is full of your away-fans and you don't want to let them down.
KH: Yeah, there were 10 000 or so from Sheffield?
TA: A fantastic effort. Officially 10 000, probably more.
KH: I just saw the video an hour ago, and the fans were storming out on the pitch. And I was actually amazed by how you managed the situation. They came and they wanted to shake your hand. How did it feel when the fans are storming the pitch?
TA: During the game, it was difficult. The week before, I think Leeds United had played a game and their fans had come on the pitch and there was some trouble after the game. There was an enquiry and before the Leicester game, there were articles in the newspaper saying that Leeds United might be docked points. Because of security trouble. And when I scored, it might have been the fifth, and all our fans came on, I wanted to embrace them, but that came into my mind. So I ended up going: “Get of the pitch”. To have come this far, and for them to take it away from us with something like a docked point or whatever. For not being able to control your fans. That would have been terrible. Actually, that was exactly what I thought after I scored that goal. Please don't come onto the pitch. But at the end of the game it was fine. I think we went up on Leeds beating us on goal difference. So it was only marginal, a point deduction would have seen another team going up, I think Newcastle were only a point behind or two points behind. Newcastle could have gone up that day. We could've lost and Newcastle won.
KH: Think about it. You don't have to do much to ruin that. If you went crazy and ran at the supporters maybe more supporters have come.
TA: Yes absolutely, then you would have gotten a situation. Yeah I was thinking just straight after I put it away. I was thinking too rationally probably, I probably should have just enjoyed it. You never know. At the time, it was the way we were, and the way the game was going. It was a strange feeling.
KH: How was the celebration after the game?
TA: Oh, I'll say, it was 3 days long. I think the rest speaks for itself. It was a fantastic few days after that. To secure promotion, we came back here and the car park was full of blades. The coach could barely get through to the ground. And we went upstairs.
KH: I wish I could have been here, but I was only 10 years old.
TA: Hey, don't make me feel old now.
KH: A little bit about managers you have been working with. Neil Warnock bought you from Sheffield United to Notts County in 91, late November. How would you compare Bassett and Warnock as managers?
TA: It is difficult really, because I think player relationship depends on both the player and the manager. So it is a bit difficult to put a manager in a box. To say this is what he is to all players, because he isn't. In terms of my personal situation, Dave Bassett was a fantastic manager and a fantastic motivator. He could get the best out of anyone. He knew people very well. That is an excellent skill to have, a very good people person. Neil knew what he wanted from his teams, from the individual. He had a framework, and he played to that framework. That is what has been successful for him over the years. But he sees personal skills different.
KH: You can be a successful manager being two very different people.
TA: Absolutely, there is not one right or wrong way. You need all skills, Some of those skills will be stronger for one manager than another. What I'm saying is that Bassett’s personal skills were top notch, never met anyone like it. For lifting you to a higher level, mentally. Anybody that worked with him, I can't find one person that even if he did drop them or sell them has a bad word to say about him. He was just a different breed, the like of which there probably won't ever be again. Because it was in a time where there was less player power. Managers had power, clubs had power and players got on with it, or they were sent out. That has changed now, and I guess Neil has found a way to change with that. I guess he had to. Because players will just shrug their shoulders and say: Fire the man who is on thousand pounds a week, you can't hurt me, you can't touch me. Neil is still in the game now, so he has had to adapt how he was back then when I was playing, to how he is now. Another strong asset of a manager or a strong characteristic has to be adaptability. As the game changes, he has proven that he has that adaptability. Two different managers. I think both got all the skills that is required. Harry is very strong in what we just talked about and for Neil the adaptability is clearly showing because he is still in the game. Harry is very loyal, if you fall out with Harry then you get back with Harry very quickly, he doesn't see it as football, it's a job, that's it. I think Neil might carry that one longer. Two successful managers, two different sets of managery skills.
KH: Let's talk about the strong squad you were when you got two straight promotions, you were a strong and pacey squad. How much of a weakness is this in the current team?
TA: I don't think it should be an issue these days. I think football talent are more prevalent now than it was when I was playing. Strength, pace and power was essential, especially in this league back in the 80's. Because defenders could tackle you from behind and push you off the ball, and be a bit more physical, and the ref would just tell the player to play on. I watched the game probably in the mid-week, an international where a player has come in from the side, slid, curled his foot around the ball and come around with the ball, and because the player in possession fell over, free kick. A clean tackle, came away with the ball and that is the difference now. For me it is not all about pace and power anymore. It is about pace, yes, pace is essential to the game, because the game has become quicker, a lot quicker. The pace is all over, full-backs have pace, you're centre-halves got pace. Everyone needs pace. Physicality is not as required. I mean look at the best players in the world, look at Messi and Xavi, you know, Silva, Suarez, Tevez. These people are not big, huge, bulking, strong forwards. They are quick, they got a low centre of gravity and they got good skills. That's how the game has changed, and why I don't think that pace and power really is an issue now.
KH: Do we have a squad that is good enough for two straight promotions?
TA: The squad as it is at this moment? No, probably not. Probably needs reinforcing at the back. A settled back four with a Morgan-type in there, to organize it. I think that is all it is, an organizer. Some leadership skills, someone who is not afraid to say it how it is on the park in a pressured situation. The reason we lack that is youth, but with experience that will come. If you have a 19-year old that organize as well, you have the next England centre-half. Usually you build that by playing lots of games. It's not a natural trait, you get that with confidence, with playing and being verbal. Helping out your teammates around you. We got great players, but maybe they are not verbal enough.
KH: Next we have the big question, who would win in a sprint between you, Pemberton and Littlejohn in 91 and now?
TA: Now, it's whoever got the fastest car. I think it would be a walking race for sure. But back in 91 Adrian Littlejohn was absolutely lightning, possibly over 20-30-40 meters. John was one of those quick but be a more power over about 100 meters. He could do it for longer. Myself, I was a bit of both. I could do endurance, so over a 100 meters I would say first place might be Aidy, I think I would be second and I'll put Pembo third. Yeah, Adrian was quick. We had another quick guy, John Francis, he was very quick as well. Not as quick as Aidy. He was lightning wasn't he.
KH: Back to you and Deane. You scored lots of goals together, but it was not just you. What made your partnership with Deane so great? What was the skills that made you so good together?
TA: I think one of the interesting things about our partnership was the fact that it was a partnership that evolved, rather than being forced. By that I mean that Dave Bassett signed me as a left winger and signed Brian Deane as a centre forward. The same year he signed Francis Joseph as a centre forward. Unfortunately, he broke his leg in the very first game of the promotion season 88/89, the first promotion. And I was forced to finish the game up front with Brian Deane. We went on to win that game. I think Brian scored, I don't think I scored, it was Reading away. Keith Curle was centre half for them. We had a game on Tuesday a few days later, and of course no centre forward with Francis having broken his leg. These were the days with a squad of about 15-16 and the rest were kids. So we were the leading men, and we each scored. I had always been a wide left midfielder. I had played a couple of times up front in non-league. And I think I played for Watford upfront a couple of times, for my pace. We were looking to sign another striker. But with us both scoring on the Tuesday and we won, and us both scoring again on Saturday and we won, so it evolved, it just happened out of chance more than desire by Dave Basset. But he recognized it. We clicked, probably for that reason. The expectations of that era was not that strong. Brian knew that I was a wide left and that I had been playing there for a while now. But it turned out that playing with me, he got lots of chances. He enjoyed that well. That went on with us playing up front together, and off pitch we grew closer. We went out together, lots of pitch bonding. We got that part of the relationship right, we could talk about anything together. The partnership flourished because we talked about it. What to do in the situations, where he wanted me to go, what he preferred and things like that. If there were any trouble, the other one would try to help. I think that is right, it's about team-spirit. You got team-spirit, but within that you got your sub-teams if you like, that bond together. Players that will always sit together in the coach and a restaurant when you are away with the team. We bonded together and it became in the end a mental understanding where you knew with a look or a nod or a wink what was going to happen in the next movement.
KH: Compared to when you were playing, how is it these days with bonding for all the loan-players?
TA: I believe it must be very difficult, but I don't know because I am not in there. The team-spirit might be fantastic, but I don't think it can be as strong as it was because after we trained together, we then went to a restaurant and ate together. Two hours after training, we would still be together as well. Nowadays you got more commitments. A player might train, then after he might do an interview or a photoshoot. Or something else, an agent might have arranged something else for him, so all these commitments and the higher profile of the players these day, it's very difficult for them. And also multiple loan-players, it's difficult for them, because they want to bond with the team wich they're at, but they are rarely just going to cut off the team they came from and all their contacts and all their friends. Any player will be travelling across from the team they are on loan from, because there is no point buying a house for a month. It's just the way the game has developed. I don't think it's for a lack of passion or will to bond. I just think it's that all of us use all the minutes of our time now. That's probably the downside of technology to be honest. You can cram more in your hours. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Less time for reflection, and reflection is important. To sit down and reflect on what you have done and on how you can do it better in the future. Rather than just keep doing things as they come up. You'll learn by the repetitiveness, you know, you are a teacher. There's ways of learning through repetition. Just keep doing it and eventually you'll get better. Or you can do something, stop, look back. How can I do it better, and then do it again.
KH: Apart from Deane, who did you enjoy the most playing with in your Blades career? And why? If you could name one or two players.
TA: I think there are a number of unsung heroes from that era. It's very difficult because unavoidably it is the people who scores the goals who will get the headline, highlights and the credits. But you can't do it without a Simon Tracey in the goal stopping it at the other end. You can't do it without John Gannon playing the ball where you know it's going to be played. Doing the things that leads to the goal, the assists. Now I see in almost every match, there are statistics on assists and things like that. That gives credit to the guys that do the work. They can even give you statistics on yards covered during a game. If we had all that back then, you would probably see a different picture. Yes, you will still see Brian Deane turning out on top of the goal scorer list, but you would see how much ground John Gannon covered in the games. See how many tackles, how many completed passes, see the complete picture. But we didn't have the capability or will to want to do that. It was points, and it was goals. They were the only two stats, they were massive back then. So all this information has helped the game, but it also has helped to put the spotlight on the key members, the real key members, of the team. We have painted out a whole different picture now, if we could do it retrospectively it would be really interesting. Obviously, you can't unless you have every single video of every single game. It would be really interesting to see. I am sure somebody somewhere has looked in to that. If I am forced to name a couple of players, I will have to give a lot of credit to Ian Bryson, from a personal perspective because he was playing in the balls that Brian and myself was feeding off of. I would have to give credit to Paul Wood, again strikers love wingers that can cross the ball. Both of those guys could do that and did it on a regular basis. It was really a numbers game, if they put enough crosses in, we would get plenty of goals.
KH: What do you like the most about being involved with the fans and visitors at the Lane?
TA: I think for me, I started my football career in the non-leagues playing part-time football and working as well. Playing in front of 200-300 people, the fans become part of the whole thing. I remember speaking to fans back then, and I remember their passion for the game. Their passion for their club have really struck me as something. If they have that passion, the least I can do is engage with really fantastic people. Replicate that a hundred times or a thousand times at a professional football club. I can't get around and speak to everyone, but I wish I could. Because I know how much it means to them, and because it means that much to them, it means that much to me. You know they are here because of their passion for Sheffield United Football Club, or passion about football in general. And I think that is great. Something that you are passionate about can put you through emotions, and highs and lows. It could be marriage or something, but you need passion in your life. And just know that, 20 years on since I last played, people still come and talk to me like it was yesterday. So when they're talking like that, it comes back to me and it's a fantastic feeling. Why any player wouldn't want to engage with his fans and supporter is beyond me.
KH: Everyone has a story, their story of when this or that happened.
TA: Absolutely, to effect someone’s life in that way just by kicking a ball on a football pitch. But I do understand it, and for that reason I think I'll always be around the club and the fans and hopefully I'll have time to talk to them.
KH: What is the hardest part of going from pro-footballer to a civilian?
TA: You have to be able to adapt, be realistic about your future goals. It is important to have a plan, I didn't have a plan. It is difficult for players to plan while they are playing, because you think you will always be Peter Pan, and you'll always going to be able to play. It is a sport, a game at the end of the day. You want to play that game. The most difficult thing is that it does just stop. It is like a tap, you turn it on or off. Then there is no more water. I think a lot more players realise that now, and will be a bit more pragmatic. I got caught up in the romance of it, because that's just the way I am, or the way I was. It's difficult to come to terms with, but you do have to come to terms with it. You have to be realistic about what's coming next.
KH: Have you ever done any coaching badges? Did you at any point consider working as a coach or a manager when you retired?
TA: When I retired, that was the first thing I thought of. I did take my first C-license over at Scunthorpe, which is not far from here. I passed that, and when it came in the post I was looking forward to that. My first coaching badge. I opened the letter and they spelt my name wrong. I thought that might be a sign. That it might be an omen. I never registered for the second badge. Not necessarily because of that, but other things took over. Family, college, I was starting to enjoy the IT courses. The fact is yes, I did take my official badge. Alex Ferguson is about 150 years old, so there might be time for me yet.
KH: Have you seen the reserve or academy games this season, and are there any players there capable of taking a big step in the near future?
TA: Academy players are very hard to talk about, because you don't want to give away your jewels. But as it happens, this season so far I haven't been able to catch any games. I had some family issues I had to sort out, they were taking quite a lot of my time. But I do intend to watch the academy players because in the internationals this week, you see Phil Jagielka and Kyle Walker playing for the England first team. No matter what has happened in the last 10-15 years, you have to say that the academy is doing what it set up to do. If all else fails again this season, we have to look at that. That's working well, FA Youth Cup final last year. That means it is doing what it was set out to do. And it's a fantastic achievement and applauds for the academy set-up and staff should keep coming, because it is richly deserved.
KH: There are very good facilities at Shirecliff. They have everything they need and it's top notch.
TA: Absolutely, that should attract young players from around the region or country. Because it is a top-notch academy, you can see the results on the pitch for England. It is up there with the top academies, and you are more likely to go from academy to first-team football quickly than if you go to a Chelsea or a Manchester United academy, because they will always buy overseas players. They will buy the finished article more often than not. Go for the team that can't afford to buy the finished article, and all of a sudden you got a chance to play first-team football at a young age.
KH: I was very impressed with Kyle Walker in the game against Sweden. He was all over, everything he did was perfect. He did so much and is only 19 or 20. I sat there and felt very proud, because he has been here and developed as a youngster. I think he has been here since he was 8 years old.
TA: I think he will be back here one day. Maybe in the twilight of his career, when he leaves Barcelona or Real Madrid or wherever he ends up. He will be back I think. He is a big blade, I think it comes across that he is very passionate about this club.
KH: Sheffield United has a very good reputation for hospitality from a foreign blade’s viewpoint. What do you think is the key to this? Why do the fans feels so at home when they are attending?
TA: We got that community spirit. The idea that the football club is owned by the fans, not by the owner. The owner is the man with the money, but even though Kevin has put a lot of his money in to the club, it's still that type of club where Kevin will pop in and say hallo. You see him walking around on the carpark talking to fans. He doesn't just stay in his ivory tower and look down on everybody. He is a fan, and he wants his club to be run that way. Be accessible. Football clubs are a big part of the community and that community spirit has to shine through. It is not a bank with a lot of doors and security guards. It's owned by the fans, without the fans, there is no football club.
KH: I remember coming here for the first time. I didn't expect to be welcomed the way I was. Everyone had their door open and took their time speaking with me. I felt I was sky-high.
TA: That's brilliant. That has always been the way this club was trying to be. A hospitable family club we call it sometimes, or a community club. It is just realizing it all through everything, all through the high-financed years. The way the games gone, it's still about the people. I think the day we loose sight of that, is the day we will be a very different club. I don't think we have ever lost sight of that in the time I have been associated with the club, and I don't think we ever will.
KH: Are the Blades going up this season?
TA: Are the Blades going up this season? The Blades are going up every season. Whenever there is hope, we should all rally around. Get in the mind-set that we are going up. There are a couple of ways to enjoy football, one is just enjoy the great results and one is enjoying the ride along the way. It will be a bumpy ride, with ups and downs. However, if you try to enjoy every moment of it, that positivity will transfer to the other fans and then transfer onto the pitch, and the players feel better about themselves. Then you’ll get better performances. The whole point of the word club is about like-minded people wanting the same thing, working together toward the same goal. Football is fantastic because you can have opinions about each of the individuals, but you have to enjoy it along the way. I am a big one for enjoying the journey as well as the outcome.
|Posted by Bergen Blade on February 17, 2016 at 3:55 PM||comments (0)|
Our starting line up at Bury was:
Brayford Edgar Basham McEveley
Calvert-Lewin - - - - - Baxter - - - - - - JCR
With Basham coming in for Collins it was pretty much the same team that beat Doncaster.
There are some good things on paper with this side.
So why didn't it work at all? We added pace and had three players in midfield, which many of us have wanted. I think our two biggest problems were:
Before I watched the game I posted this on a message board, on JCR :
"Quite often the tempo of our attacks is so slow that by the time we actually get the ball out wide to him, the opposition have all their defenders back, waiting, ready to deal with the cross, if it comes in. I think also JCR at times slows things down himself before he takes his man on. Maybe he sees his job as to be available out wide, beat his man and knock it in, then hopefully there will be a teammate on the end of it. But I think he'd be more effective if he was more often part of a wave; quicker attacks where he could run onto the ball, attack his full back and cross before the opposition defence got back and before the movement into the box had stopped."
There were a few examples of this, including this one:
Brayford's inside run and pass out to JCR has created some space, but it takes a long time before a cross comes in and we are lacking players in the box.
Our counter attacking wasn't good enough. I think us not being strong enough in midfield is the main cause of this, but even when we did have the chance we often chose not to take it. Here we win the ball when Bury have three or four players forward, but waste the chance to counter attack. There are too many passes and the long punt up to an isolated Adams is easy to deal with for their defence:
Even Baxter, from his position behind Adams, gets back to playmake, rather than making attacking runs into space. Counter attacking is more than trying to kick it upfield for a quick striker to chase. We need determination to make use of these situations, and more players who can run on the ball, and off the ball, quickly and often.
Another example of many passes in our own half, then a chip up to a lonesome Che, who's really got a thankless task to do something about those passes:
Finally, I'll include one better attempt: Here we win the ball when Bury have many players high up. DCL immediately (!) runs (!!) on the ball and hits a great through ball to Adams, who has timed his run well.
Unfortunately Che's first touch makes him lose momentum, but he's still able to hit another through ball, to Baxter who's made a long off the ball run (!!!), but a challenge from behind sees him fail to control the ball.
We tried to up the tempo in the second half, but Bury were happy to drop deeper and soak up the pressure. In the end we had a very attacking side on the pitch, but still struggled to create much.
|Posted by Bergen Blade on January 31, 2016 at 2:30 PM||comments (0)|
Regardless of how this season ends, it looks likely that there will be a huge clear out at Bramall Lane this summer. Many players are out of contract. Some are completely out of the favour, and others are probably considered past their best and therefore unlikely to be offered a new deal.
* Adkins should be prepared for a busy summer.
Let's have a look at how the squad could look like before any new signings are made, using this colour code:
George Long - Contracted till June 2016 * Reckon he'll be offered a new deal as Adkins seems a fan
Aaron Ramsdale - Contracted till June 2017(?)
Jake Eastwood - Contracted till June 2017(?)
John Brayford - Contracted till June 2018. Will stay unless he is considered too expensive.
Harrison McGahey - Contracted till June 2016 + optional year extension * Although he's not figured, we may decide to take up this option due to his age
Keiron Wallace - Contracted till June 2018. Young, quite versatile and therefore a useful squad player.
Chris Basham - Contracted till June 2017
Dom Calvert-Lewin - Contracted till June 2018.
Paul Coutts - Contracted till June 2017
Louis Reed - Contracted till June 2018 * If someone comes in for him I wouldn't be surprised to see him leave
Ben Whiteman - Contracted till June 2017 (?)
Martyn Woolford - Contracted till June 2017 *May remain, but wouldn't be surprised to see him transfer listed due to not impressing
David Brooks - Contracted till June 2017(?)
Matt Done - Contracted till June 2017 + optional year extension. Struggling to impress under Adkins.
Billy Sharp - Contracted till June 2017.
Che Adams - Contracted till 2018. He may attract offers.
Jake Wright - Contracted till 2017(?).
Adkins has so far failed to make a squad, mostly signed by previous managers, play the way he wants to. At the moment he's turned to a very defensive playing style and the biggest, strongest and most experienced players within the squad. In the summer he will be allowed to start again, and shape the squad the way he wants to. It is likely that many will depart the Lane, even if they do - somehow - bring us promotion this season.
From the above list - 7 players are likely to remain to challenge for a first team spot. 6 more to provide back up. Several signings will have to be made. Basically, a new squad will have to be built.
|Posted by Karl Haakon Bjerknes on January 21, 2016 at 11:50 AM||comments (4)|
Tenkte jeg skulle finne ut hvilke spillere som utpeker seg som de best likte blant medlemmer i SB.
Starter med å gi mine stemmer til:
I nåværende spillerstall: John Brayford
I løpet av mine år som blades-supporter: Dane Whitehouse
Nå håper jeg at dere andre kan gjøre det samme og publisere dine stemmer i kommentarfeltet.
|Posted by Bergen Blade on January 5, 2016 at 4:40 PM||comments (0)|
Sheffield United var et meget godt cuplag under Nigel Clough.
Som underdogs hadde vi typene som var flinke til å jage, dekke rom, løpe mye demme opp, frustrere. Med Doyle som rutinert anker bak rappfotede terriere som Louis Reed og Stefan Scougall klarte ikke lag som Southampton, QPR og Tottenham å spille oss ut. Samtidig contret vi bra. Reed og Scougall hadde løpsstyrken til å være med fremover, backene fulgte på, og på kantene hadde vi spillere i Murphy og JCR som hadde ferdighetene til å runde selv Premiership-backer.
Det var i ligaen at Clough-lagets svakheter kom til syne. Forrige sesong fant vi aldri noen god angrepsrytme. Vi var generelt ikke så gode til å styre kampene, og slet både med å bryte ned forsvar som lå dypt, og å handtere lag som jaget oss på egen halvdel. Fysikken var et problem.
Nigel Adkins har vært gjennom noe av det samme denne sesongen. Han startet optimistisk med å spille en åpen, offensiv fotball. Det gav oss en del mål å juble for, men omtrent like mange baklengs å ergre oss over. Det var etter det ydmykende 2-4 nederlaget hjemme mot Shrewsbury at Adkins tok grep og la om stilen helt.
Siden det har vi stort sett spilt med de elleve største og sterkeste og mest rutinerte spillerene vi har. Med en taktikk som i stor grad gikk ut på å vinne krigen og holde tett bakover, fikk vi bedring i resultatene. I de siste par kampene har laget også skapt litt mer fremover, selv om forsvaret raknet på ny mot Peterborough (2-3).
Kan en slik taktikk funke mot Manchester United på Old Trafford? Mens tredjedivisjonsdommere ikke alltid drar opp gule og røde kort for beinknusende tacklinger, kan det bli annerledes på lørdag. Spillere som McEveley og Hammond kan nok ikke klinke like tøft til i duellene, og hvis vi må senke aggressiviteten noen hakk, har dette laget nok å spille på? Vil vi henge med i svingene mot teknisk overlegne stjernespillere? Kan vi kontre og skape sjanser uten fart og særlige individuelle kvaliteter?
Vi får se. Det er ikke helt sikkert at Nigel Adkins spiller med samme ellever som forrige helg. En Done eller Adams kan også tilføre fart og gi oss en kontringstrussel. Adkins kan også finne på å gjøre flere rokkeringer, ettersom vi har en - egentlig - viktigere kamp allerede på tirsdag, mot Wigan, en skikkelig sekspoengskamp. Kan han finne på å skifte ut hele laget på lørdag? Han har gjort det i tidligere cupkamper, og er nok fristet, men man skal huske på at Old Trafford-kampen er en gulrot av dimensjoner. Det spørs om Adkins vil nekte sine foretrukne menn denne sjansen.
Så er det litt diskutabelt om hva som er vårt beste lag, og hvilke 11 som er best egnet til å gjøre en ok figur på Old Trafford.
Jeg frykter det verste. Men man vet aldri, og det er lov å håpe på det beste. Uansett, er det alltid fantastisk å ha en live TV-kamp å se frem mot! Lykke til på lørdag!!
|Posted by Bergen Blade on December 26, 2015 at 5:45 AM||comments (0)|
De talentfulle Molde-guttene Kristian Strande og Ola Ormset Husby gjennomførte for noen uker siden et treningsopphold med The Blades. I den forbindelse tok supporterklubben en prat med dem!
* Ola og Kristian i treningshallen på Shirecliffe
Intervju med Kristian
Fortell om din fotballkarriere frem til nå?
Har alltid vært Moldespiller, gått gradene fra jeg startet å spille i 5-års alderen. Etter det ble det Akerakademiet og den gode satsingen Molde Fotballklubb gjør med unge spillere. Etter at jeg ble junior, har jeg stor sett spilt for Moldes andrelag, som spiller i 2. Divisjon. De siste årene har jeg å fått vært med å trene en del med A – laget, og fått bidratt i 2 treningskamper for Moldes A-lag.
Hvilke posisjoner kan du spille?
I mine yngre år spilte jeg mye midtbane og angrep, men det er nok som midtstopper jeg har mine store styrker.
Hvilken spillertype er du? Hvilke roller i laget passer deg? Hva er dine sterke sider, og hva må utvikles enda mer?
Jeg er en spillertype som liker å ha ballen i beina, spille langs bakken og liker å ta med meg ballen opp i banen. Mener selv jeg har gode basisferdigheter, er ganske høy så liker også luftduellene, men kanskje min sterkeste side er lese spille/fotballforståelse. Jeg har jo akkurat fylt 18 år, så jeg kan/må utvikle meg på alt. Jeg har ikke tenkt å bli værende i 2. divisjon
Hvilket forhold har du til engelsk fotball?
Jeg har alltid vært interessert i engelsk fotball. Sett mange kamper, lest mye om det, så de aller fleste interesserte følger med på Engelsk fotball. Høyt tempo og mange dueller, er sjeldent kjedelige kamper.
Hva visste du om Sheffield United før prøvespillet?
Jeg visste ikke så mye spesielt om Sheffield United, men pappa har spilt sammen med folk som har spilt i Sheffield (Roger Nilsen). Så pappa sa mye til meg om hva som ventet meg. Ellers så var det veldig spennende og reise og trene for en sånn tradisjonsrik klubb.
Hvordan kom prøvespillet i stand?
Mye takket være min rådgiver Sverre Mauseth som har et godt kontaktnett og hjalp oss med dette, noe vi er veldig takknemlig for.
Man blir invitert til prøvespill i Sheffield, flyr over, tar vel tog til Sheffield og rusler ut av stasjonen. Hva skjer deretter? Hvordan blir prøvespillere tatt i mot?
Når vi landet i Manchester, så blir vi hentet av Howard Dean. Deretter kjørte han oss til vår vertsmor. Blir innlosjert der og gjort litt kjent med området. Fikk vite hva som skulle skje de nærmeste dag, og ble mottatt på en veldig fin måte. Alt var veldig bra.
Mange prøvespillere blir stuet inn på Copthorne, hvordan var innkvarteringen for dere?
Vi bodde hos ei dame privat som var en vertsdame som Sheffield hadde kontaktet. En ca. 20 minutt kjøretur fra Sheffields treningsanlegg. Det var mye bedre for oss å bo hos henne, enn å bli innlosjert på et hotell. Alt var mye tryggere.
Hvordan var første dag på treningsfeltet?
Vi ble hentet tidlig på morgenen, der treneren møtte oss på treningsanlegget. Vi ble tilbudt frokost og fikk utdelt treningstøy. Vi var nok spesielt spente før den første økten.
Hvordan gikk treningene videre?
Vi startet å trene med U21, deretter fikk vi også noen økter med U18. Vi trente hver dag, bortsett fra et par dager, da vi hadde fri. Jeg tror jeg trente en 4 økter med U21, og 3 økter med U18.
Var treningene lagt opp på lignende måte som i Molde? Hvordan var trenerne og resten av støtteapparatet?
I fotball så er det mye av det samme som går igjen. I Molde trener vi kanskje litt mer på basisferdigheter og litt mer på teknikk enn det vi gjorde denne uken i England. Det var vel litt mer øvelser enn det var i Sheffield. I Sheffield var lange økter, og varte gjerne litt lenger enn det de gjør i Molde. Trenere og støtteapparatet var veldig entusiastiske og veldig tydelig på hva de ville.
Dere fikk prøvd dere i to kamper også? Hvordan gikk det?
Vi spilte to kamper, og begge var for U18. Vi spilte første kamp mot Birmingham, der vi tapte 2-1. Det var en tøff kamp, men er godt fornøyd med egen innsats. I den andre kampen spilte vi mot spillere som spiller fast i Leauge One. Vi spilte mot Chesterfield, dette var en veldig tøff kamp hvor vi tapte 3-1. Der vi møtte bare senior spillere nesten, det var forventet at vi fikk en tøff motstand. Så i de kampene jeg spilte, så følte jeg at jeg gjorde en god jobb.
Hvordan var det generelle nivået på spillerne i klubben?
Det var veldig mange gode spillere i klubben. Det var veldig mye trøkk i alle, og alle gav 100% hele tiden. De hadde også noen gode spillere med gode basisferdigheter. Det var veldig fysiske spillere.
Var det noen enkeltspillere som utmerket seg?
Jeg syns det er vanskelig å plukke ut noen enkeltspillere. Det generelle nivået på begge lagene var veldig jevnt. Det var ingen som var noe spesielt dårligere enn andre, men heller ingen som skilte seg spesielt ut.
Dere fikk se en førstelagskamp også, et førstelag som generelt sliter, men som til slutt klarte å hale i land avansement hjemme mot Oldham. Hva synes dere om kampen?
Vi så 70 minutter av kampen, som ble en slitekamp. Det var 2 jevne lag, som begge gav alt for å komme seg videre. Jeg syns Sheffield generelt var det beste laget, til tross for at de spilte en middels kamp. De vant kampen 1-0, noe som gjorde at de tok seg videre til neste runde.
Hva skjer etter et prøvespill. Blir man kalt inn på et kontor for å få beskjed om klubben ønsker å tilby kontrakt, eller blir slikt organisert senere, via agenter og slikt?
Etter prøvespillet så møter vi treneren, for å få tilbakemeldinger fra oppholdet. Dette var først og fremst ikke et opphold som skulle bunne ut i kontrakt, men først og fremst få litt referanser og erfaring.
Var der andre prøvespillere, i tillegg til dere?
Det var i hvert fall 1 annen prøvespiller som var med å trente med U18 når vi var der. Han fikk også prøvd seg i kampen mot Chesterfield.
Hvilke tilbakemeldinger fikk dere? Hva skjer videre?
Jeg hadde en hyggelig prat med akademiets leder, der vi gikk gjennom oppholdet. Jeg fikk gode tilbakemeldinger fra oppholdet, og fikk snakket litt om hva som var bra og hva som må jobbes videre med. Det var som sagt ikke slik at dette oppholdet skulle gi meg kontrakt, så er ikke lagt opp til noe, men kan selvfølgelig bli aktuelt å besøke Sheffield senere.
Rakk dere å få noe inntrykk av byen Sheffield? Hva gjorde dere utenom treningene og kampene?
Vi forholdte oss mest til nærområdet av der vi bodde. Det tok en del tid med kjøring, så det var vel fotballen som tok den aller meste av tiden. Utenom treningen og kampene ble det avslapping og vi hadde med oss en del skolearbeid som vi måtte gjøre.
Hvilket inntrykk sitter dere igjen med av klubben? Er det lys i tunnelen for oss Blades-supportere?
Vi fikk et godt inntrykk av en for oss så ut som veldreven klubb. Vi ser jo det at det er mange om beinet og er en svært tøff liga, der det er mange gode og jevne lag. Det kan jo hende at klubben hadde trengt noen molde spillere
* Ola og Kristian fikk se FA-cup-kampen mot Oldham, en slitekamp som til slutte endte med avansement.
Intervju med Ola:
Fortell om din fotballkarriere frem til nå?
Min fotball karriere startet i moderklubben Averøykameratene. Med min far som trener, videre har turen gått til Molde FK kor e har fått spilt regelmessig 2.div. Har også vært så heldig og fått spille med flagget på brystet i 5 landskamper.
Hvilken posisjoner kan du spille?
Har egentlig spilt det meste opp igjennom årene, men trives best på sentralt midtbana.
Hvilken spillertype er du? Hvilke roller i laget passer deg? Hva er dine sterke sider, og hva må utvikles enda mer?
Er en spiller som er god med ball, go fotballforståelse og en mindre god utviklet fysikk. Passer best som en sentral midtbane spiller som får ligge å fordele.
Hvilket forhold har du til engelsk fotball?
Har ikke et veldig nært forhold til engelsk fotball helt ned i divisjonene, men følger med på Premier League.
Hvordan gikk treningene?
Vi trente med både u18 og u21. Treningene var lagt opp litt etter molde sine premisser. Men det var mer fokus på trøkk og innsats. Ikke så mye pasningsøvelser. Men treningene var veldig bra organisert. Både trenere og spillere var hyggelige typer, de var flinke og kunne mye.
Dere fikk prøvd dere i to kamper også? Hvordan gikk det?
Ja, vi spilte mot Birmingham u18 og mot Chesterfield sitt andre lag, men preget av spillere med hundrevis av League One-kamper. Personlig gikk det bra for oss begge. Vi har fått med oss masse erfaringer og læring.
Utenom treningene gikk tiden mest til avslapning, i tillegg var vi en tur i byen, på et gigantisk kjøpesenter.
Hvilket inntrykk sitter dere igjen med av klubben? Er det lys i tunnellen for oss Blades-supportere?
Vi sitter igjen med et godt inntrykk av klubben, en profesjonell klubb, som er på vei opp og fram med en mer tydelig måte å spille på.
|Posted by Bergen Blade on October 18, 2015 at 2:50 PM||comments (0)|
Nigel Adkins is learning things about his squad every week. All season he's been making tweaks, adjustments, changes in selections, roles and formations to try get the balance just right and to get the most out of his players. I'm still hopeful he'll get it right eventually.
Against Oldham he started with this line up:
Freeman McGahey Collins Wallace
Baxter - - -- - - Scougall
Adams - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Done
There are a few good things about this team on paper. Basham has got a few decent defensive attributes, height, tackling, hard work. You'd think he'd be good at protecting the back four, making headers and tackles in front of the centre halves and making their jobs easier. On paper the 4-3-3, easily transformed to 4-5-1 should give us an extra man advantage in the middle of the park, compared to our 4-4-2 formation which Adkins played in his first couple of months.
Going forward the starting eleven also looks quite exciting. Full backs who both have something to offer going forward. The creativity of Baxter combined with Scougall's running on and off the ball in advanced midfield. Pace and goal-scoring ability out wide and an experienced poacher up front.
So why didn't it work?
We really struggled in midfield first half. Several times Oldham played straight through us. Adams and Done did not get back as much as required, and this meant Scougall and Baxter struggled to get close enough to the Oldham midfielders.
Basham also struggled to sweep up behind them. Despite his defensive attributes, he lacks experience in this position and didn't seem to know whether to get stuck in, or to hold a sweeping position. It takes a football brain to get these things right, as shown by Stuart McCall in his first season with us, and on occasions by Michael Doyle.
An example of us not getting close to Oldham:
Basham in the holding role was also a problem from an attacking perspective. He's not composed on the ball enough to come short, get the ball from the defenders and distribute with neat passes. Adkins knows this, so we don't use Basham in that manner. Instead we were more direct and our attacks were often chipped balls from defenders down the channels to our forward trio, neither of whom managed to get hold of it, or hold it up, and it soon came back.
We got the equaliser. A fine run by Scougall and superb shot by Done. It didn't come as a result of us playing particularly well though.
After 35 minutes Adkins made the change which did change the pattern of the game. Basham and Baxter swapped positions.
From that point we took over the midfield. Basham got closer to the Oldham midfielders who could no longer distribute forward without being closed down, we won more second balls, more tackles, more free kicks and got more situations in the box. Scougall's chasing became more effective too. Baxter showed on a couple of occasions that he is capable of reading the game well, and from a defensive point of view he's more suited to this role, rather than chasing around.
Oldham produced very little after this.
Consequently we got chances. Sharp hit the post first half, then in the second half:
With no reward we sort of ran out of steam after this, a powerful Adams shot the closest we got.
I think fans have been too harsh after the game. It was probably worse, and a lot more disappointing watching it live. Especially when they got down to ten men and we still fail to score, it can be extremely frustrating. Sammon came on and didn't do well. I've seen a few ridicule the fact that he came on to play on the left, ignoring that he came on and helped rescue the game from that role a few weeks ago at Bradford.
I'd like to see Adkins stick with the side that played from the 35th minute, as there is decent balance and good attacking potential in that XI. I don't expect us to suddenly turn into world beaters, but if those eleven can learn more about each other and develop a better understanding I think there's good reason to hope for improved performances both offensively and defensively.