After the surprise news of Nigel Clough’s sacking from the Sheffield United job this morning, I look into the reasons for his departure and potential replacements to take the hot seat.
I can imagine the sight of confused faces around Sheffield this morning as ‘Blades’ supporters picked up their local paper. Many will not agree with the sacking of the former Derby manager because of his sides lucrative cup run, and astonishing giant killing’s made for an interesting season, but the failure to reach the play off final at Wembley ultimately cost Clough his job.
When Clough took over in October 2013 United were languishing in the relegation places of League One, by May he had catapulted the team to 7th and narrowly missing out on a play off place. This season’s league form has been inconsistent at best and for a team with such huge investment as Sheffield United, 20 points behind the automatic places is simply not good enough. Failure to win any of the final seven games of the regular season cost United as they were beaten by an inform Swindon 7-6 on aggregate. The 5-5 draw at the County Ground was described as “mad” by Swindon manager Mark Cooper, Clough was less outgoing and decided to hide his frustration and disappointment.
The failed drug test of 12 goal striker Jose Baxter put a dampener on proceedings; United’s second top scorer was the second player to be caught in a week after Jake Livermore was suspended after being linked with a cocaine incident.
Many supporters will forgive Clough for the disappointing league form on the grounds of their giant killing exploits in the FA Cup. They dumped out Aston Villa in the 3rd round before beating championship sides, Charlton, Nottingham Forest, and Fulham. Their extraordinary run was halted by an in-form Preston side in February. They were at it again in the League Cup, with Southampton and West-Ham among the teams to be executed by the Blades. They eventually fell to a superior Spurs side who defeated them 3-2 on aggregate with the masterful free kicks of Christian Eriksen, Tottenham were well beaten by London rivals Chelsea in the final who also went on the claim the Premier League trophy to add to their collection.
Darren Ferguson, Nigel Adkins, and Gus Poyet are all early favourites to fill the void left by Clough. For me Adkins is the most likely of the trio as he led Southampton to a double promotion to the Premier League from League One in 2010 and who’s to say he can’t do it again?