Nigel Clough is not looking forward to tomorrow’s kick-off to Sheffield United’s new season – but don’t mistake that for an approach from a manager not relishing the challenge ahead.
The Blades boss is not a fan of opening day games, where bizarre scorelines can sometimes inflate or dash pre-season expectations.
So while Bristol City arrive at Bramall Lane tomorrow for a 12.15 kick-off to launch the new League One campaign, Clough is looking more long-term.
“On the first day players will be nervous,” said Clough, who has brought nine new signings into the Blades over the summer. “You can get some funny results on the first day. What happens then rarely has any resemblance about what will happen over the next nine months. It’s almost like a separate fixture.
“The fans look forward to it a lot more whereas we look at periods and how we get through them.
“You don’t want an awful start and a great one would be fine but, so long as you are in the mix after 10 games or so then it’s fine.”
The Blades’ terrible start to last season – just one win in 14 matches – meant they were always fighting a losing battle to reach the play-offs, even after Clough took over from David Weir.
And the Blades boss believes that experience will mean United will not suffer a similar troubled opening this time around.
“Mentally, I think we’re stronger,” he said. “The experience at the start of last season will stand those who were here in good stead. It will act as an incentive because they’ll be thinking we don’t want to be down there again after 12 or 13 games because it’s a horrible place to get out of. That’s not a lack of ambition. You can’t win the league after 12 or 13 games but arguably you can lose it.”
Clough is not one for Churchillian speeches but insists they have to be quickly out of the starting blocks and take the game to Bristol City.
“I haven’t thought of what I’ll say to the players,” Clough admitted. “
I don’t do big speeches anyway. I don’t think the players’ attention span is right at that time.
“They’re too busy doing their own preparations and quite rightly so.
“Anyway, we’ve been talking all summer about what we want them to do. If they don’t get it over five weeks then they aren’t going to pick much up in five minutes are they?
“We’ve seen glimpses of what we want, against Huddersfield, Fenerbahce and Dundee.
“We want that start we had against Huddersfield where we got six or seven crosses into the box in the first 10 minutes and all of them were goalscoring opportunities.”