Sheffield United manager Nigel Adkins has warned the club’s long-suffering fans they may endure “more pain” before the glory days return to Bramall Lane.
Tuesday’s defeat at Bury left the Blades in mid-table – five points off the play-off places – and supporters disgruntled ahead of tomorrow’s visit of Port Vale in League One.
Just 15 league games remain for Adkins to turn United’s season around. But while there is a short-term target of promotion to the Championship at the fifth attempt, Adkins has a tough balancing act in producing a blueprint to bring success long-term.
“As a football club we have had eight managers in eight years, several years in League One, and maybe we now have to realise we are a League One club but we are a big football club,” said Adkins.
“We have to get out of this and we have to build. We are going through some pain, at this moment in time, and maybe we are going to have go through a bit more pain.
“We had 46 players, just too big a squad, and we have to reduce that to a level which is manageable.
“We need to win games on a Saturday, a pathway for young players to come through the system. Have we clogged that up, have we not allowed it?
“But at this moment in time, we have to get out of this division straightaway, we have to win, win, win.
“Sometimes we look for the short-term fix, and maybe we have to look for a long-term answer as well.”
Adkins is the longest-serving manager in South Yorkshire, after just eight months in the post, and is under pressure to deliver. But he believes setting up a successful template now will reap rewards later, whoever is in charge.
“This is where we are,” he said. “I have spoke to the owners this week, and from the owners down, everyone wants Sheffield United to do well. Everyone wants to see us back at the top level. That’s our common goal, but we are not there at this moment in time.
“The realisation is we are in mid-table in League One, we are fighting to get into the play-offs.
“But there’s a lot of things we have to do, and we have to work very hard to make that happen.
“Let’s not dance around the houses; this is where we are, this is the reality, this is straight-talking.
“Let’s give ourselves the opportunity to get behind the players, and work hard.
“We may have to move some on, we have to bring better players in, we have to develop the players we have got.
“We are not there yet, but we will be because that’s where I know we have to get to.
“There’s a big desire behind the scenes to get the template right.
“To develop the players, play the way which is going to be right for this club long-term.
“Whether that’s me as the manager, or somebody else, Sheffield United need that blueprint in place.
“The manager moves, but the football club needs to keep moving forward. We need to plan for that for the long term.
“We all know in football it’s a results-driven business, and if you lose six games on the spin you normally expect a change in manager,” added Adkins, who signed a three-year deal with United last summer.
“But, eight managers in eight years here, maybe we need to have a bit of stability. Come on, we are moving forward.”
Adkins believes United will still reach the top six, and end-of-season play-offs, and has urged Blades fans to get behind the players tomorrow.
He said: “I am not going to give up on this season. We are a handful of points off the play-off positions, the front two is beyond us now.
“We are fighting for the play-off positions; let’s make sure that we are still in there having a go right to the end.”