Clough appointment a coup for Blades

Thursday 24th October 2013 12:53

Nigel Clough: Right man for the Blades

Nigel Clough: Right man for the Blades

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Sheffield United FanZoner Leo Watson is happy with the appointment of Nigel Clough, believing it to be a coup for the club.

It seems slightly odd for a club which has unashamedly cited it's ambition to forge a meteoric rise though the leagues to appoint a manager who is synonymous with delivering stability and gradual improvement.

But that is exactly what the Sheffield United board has done with the appointment of Nigel Clough.

This isn't to say that Clough represents a bad appointment by any stretch of the imagination. He lay the foundations for Burton Albion to become a football league mainstay and would most likely have taken them to the promised land himself, had he not have answered the call from Derby.

At Derby he inherited a club in disarray. Still reeling from an embarrassing relegation from the Premiership - having registered just 11 points - and after a poor start to their Championship campaign under Paul Jewell, Clough came in halfway through the 2008/09 season and managed to boost confidence within the club just enough to avoid the double relegation that many predicted.

Since then, the former England international has slowly taken the club forward and last season recorded their highest league finish (10th) since returning to the Championship.

During this time, encouragingly from the Blades board's perspective, he also managed to develop some of the Ram's young starlets, including Will Hughes and Mason Bennett.

Brian Clough he certainly isn't - a phrase that must have been thrown at him almost daily during his four year reign at Pride Park, having to live in the shadow of his league championship-winning father - but compared to the options available to Sheffield United, Clough was undeniably the standout candidate.

Chris Morgan did an excellent job restoring a bit of confidence to a deflated team and pulled off a great result away at Peterborough on Tuesday night, but jumping in with another inexperienced manager following the departure of David Weir was never going to be the preferred option (once bitten, twice shy!).

As for the other options; Russell Slade, Karl Robinson and Keith Curle, none give you those butterflies that come with an exciting appointment. The only option that might have caused that fluttering feeling was Tony Mowbray.

The former Celtic and West Brom man only became free on Tuesday evening following his dismissal by Middlesbrough, but would certainly have fit the bill in terms of style of play, experience and past success. However, it was clear that the deal with Clough had already been done before this could even be considered.

So to the task in hand. The position Nigel Clough inherits at Bramall Lane is not too dissimilar from where he found himself four years ago. Like it or not, the Blades have hit the self-destruct button since that cruel relegation back in 2007. Terrible decisions both on and off the field, most notably the appointment of Bryan Robson, have seen the club sink to the lower echelons of the third tier of English football for the first time since 1980/81 season, when United were relegated to what was then Division 4.

This has culminated in a staggering four managers (if you count Chris Morgan) tasked with taking the Blades out of League One since April. Yes, there may be 'money' available now, thanks to the arrival of Prince Abdullah, but exactly how much and how it will be utilised - considering the League One wage restrictions - remains to be seen.

But ultimately, attracting a manager who has plied his trade in the league above for the last four years and whose sacking was met with surprise and disapproval by many of the Derby faithful, is a bit of a coup for United. However, at Bramall Lane Clough will be tasked with doing what he has never done before: delivering instant and continuous success to a fan base that demands nothing else.

Will he be given the time to establish himself in the way he was at Burton and Derby? We all hope so, but recent history suggests you would be extremely naive to expect that he will.

By Leo Watson, FanZone's Sheffield United blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @leowatson1889 - and to follow @FanZone too!

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