DEAN HAMMOND’S CV points to a footballer well qualified in what it takes to prevail in a promotion race.
In three of the last four full seasons he has spent in the Football League, the 32-year-old claimed two runners-up medals and a Championship winners’ medal in the colours of Southampton and Leicester City. Even in the year that did not bring automatic promotion, he battled through to the play-off semi-finals with Brighton & Hove Albion.
Now at Sheffield United, Hammond believes the same signs that indicated success was on its way at St Mary’s and the KP Stadium can be seen at Bramall Lane after a December that has breathed fresh life into the club’s season.
“At Southampton, it wasn’t all flowers and roses at the start,” said the midfielder, who won back-to-back promotions under Nigel Adkins as the Saints soared from League One to the top flight.
“It was a building process. This is very similar.
“Confidence is a magical thing in football and it is growing. It comes mostly through results. There is a good spirit among the lads, which is also very similar to Southampton.
“This is a big football club. We want to play the right way, we want to play football but, most importantly, we want to play winning football.
“Now, we are keeping clean sheets and looking solid. We will always score goals so, if we can make this ground like a fortress.”
Hammond moved to Bramall Lane on loan from Leicester in mid-October. He had played just one game for the Foxes, a Capital One Cup tie at Bury a couple of months earlier, so fitness had to be built once in Yorkshire.
He is the first to admit this took time, but after playing a pivotal role in Monday’s derby win over Bradford City the midfielder finally feels to be up to speed.
“It has taken me a little bit of time,” said the Hastings-born midfielder, whose loan stay is due to expire in the new year.
“I needed to get some proper fitness and I needed to adapt again to playing week-in and week-out. But I am enjoying being here. I am understanding my role more and I enjoy being at this football club.
“I honestly don’t know about my future. I want to stay though and I am enjoying being at a big club like this. The decision is up to Leicester, ultimately. It is between them and Sheffield United.
“But, if it is up to me, I will be staying. Definitely.”
Hammond’s desire to remain in South Yorkshire is partly fuelled by the belief that something special is building at the Lane.
It means another promotion may be beckoning to add to those previous successes in 2010-11 and 2011-12 at Southampton and the 2013-14 title triumph with Leicester.
Thanks to the Foxes’ elevation, Hammond was last season finally able to realise his ambition of playing in the Premier League – an ambition that had eluded him at Saints after being loaned to Brighton in the wake of Adkins’s men winning the second of their two promotions.
He made a dozen appearances as Leicester stayed up against all the odds, but was deemed surplus to requirements by Claudio Ranieri.
This alerted Adkins, who handed the midfielder his Blades debut in the 3-0 home win over Fleetwood Town.
At first, results were up and down with the nadir being that dreadful 4-2 midweek loss at the Lane to Shrewsbury Town.
Since then, though, things have looked up with the final month of the year bringing four victories from as many outings to move to within a point of the top six and book a glamour tie in the FA Cup third round at Manchester United.
Hammond added: “The Bradford game was a good performance and the fans seemed to enjoy it. You want that bond with the fans. They have stuck with us.
“They are passionate and they expect a certain standard, but that is what you want as a player.
“They were sucking the ball into the net during the second half against Bradford and it is a great feeling to attack the Kop when that happens.
“If we can keep that going, that bond is going to be massive for us.
“The key if we are to be successful is that we have to do the basics right before we can do anything else. We create chances, but you also need clean sheets and to be solid.
“You win games in the last 20 minutes. That is when the really free-flowing stuff can start, but only providing you are in the right position. We all want to play like Barcelona but, ultimately, it is the winning that counts.”
The first game of 2016 will bring a big test of United’s upturn in form with sixth-placed Peterborough United heading to the Lane.
Matt Done is an early doubt after limping out of the Bantams win on Monday
“Matty came off with a hamstring injury,” said manager Adkins. “We don’t know the severity of it yet. It is too early to say. But I think it is fair to assume that he is going to be a massive doubt for the Peterborough game on Saturday.”