Blades’ need for ‘a change in direction’ sees Clough sacked at Bramall Lane

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SHEFFIELD UNITED are searching for an eighth permanent managerial appointment in as many years following Nigel Clough’s dismissal.

The former England international yesterday paid the price for the Blades’ failure to win promotion from League One.

The timing of Nigel Clough's dismissal as Sheffield United manager has come as a surprise (Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire).

The timing of Nigel Clough's dismissal as Sheffield United manager has come as a surprise (Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire).

It was an unexpected move by the Bramall Lane hierarchy, not least because Clough had spent the two weeks since losing to Swindon Town in the play-off semi-finals talking to prospective signings and planning for next season.

As part of those duties, he drew up the club’s retained list.

United’s timing, therefore, is strange with Clough, who led the club to two major cup semi-finals during his 19 months at the helm, understood to have been left shocked by the development.

Other than a club statement revealing the board felt “a change in direction was necessary for the forthcoming season”, no specific reasons have been provided for the sacking.

That same United missive, which also confirmed every member of Clough’s backroom staff apart from Chris Morgan had also departed, stated that the Lane hierarchy intend to make an appointment “within a relatively short period of time”.

Darren Ferguson, Gus Poyet and Nigel Adkins have all been mooted as potential successors along with Mark Warburton, who recently left Brentford after leading the London club into the Championship play-offs.

Neil Redfearn, recently replaced as head coach of Leeds United by Uwe Rosler, is another to have been linked with the newly-created vacancy along with Bradford City manager Phil Parkinson.

Clough’s dismissal means five of Yorkshire’s senior clubs have changed manager since the start of 2014-15.

Mark Robins was the first to go after walking out on Huddersfield Town in the wake of an opening-day hammering at home by Bournemouth, while Leeds United made three changes in the dugout during a turbulent campaign at Elland Road.

Nigel Worthington also left York City and Danny Wilson lost his job at Barnsley.

The five clubs to make a change this term is one more than in 2013-14, when there was another managerial departure at Bramall Lane as Clough succeeded David Weir in the October.

He took United from the drop zone to seventh in League One, while United also became the first third-tier club to reach the 
FA Cup semi-finals in 13 years.

Installed as the bookmakers’ favourites ahead of the season that has just ended, United reached the last four of the Capital One Cup and the play-off semi-finals.

This, though, seems to have been insufficient to placate the Blades’ hierarchy.

It means Clough can be added to a list of managerial appointments since Neil Warnock left in 2007 that features Bryan Robson, Kevin Blackwell, Gary Speed, Micky Adams, Wilson and Weir.

During that time, Morgan and John Carver have also had caretaker spells in charge. This revolving door approach hardly smacks of stability at a club now facing a fifth consecutive season in League One.

Clough, for his part, had clearly been expecting to remain in charge. Speaking to The Yorkshire Post in the technical area of Swindon’s County Ground just moments after United’s play-off exit, he had said: “We are only 18 months in.

“We have gone from bottom six to top six in that time. I know that’s not good enough for some, but there you go. We have progressed even though, ultimately, we have failed with regards to promotion.

“We have already established our (transfer) targets for the summer. Now it is just a case of getting them in. If we’d have had this side before January then I’d have fancied us for automatic.”