ALL NIGEL Clough wants for Christmas is a healthier league position.
Sheffield United start a key run of games to the end of the calendar year at struggling rivals Bristol City this afternoon, with their manager having targeted a healthy haul of points between now and January 1 to stop their season lurching from a drama to a fully-blown crisis.
Clough said: “It’s a real danger, being in the bottom four with a third of the season gone. But we’ve got enough to evade that fear over the next few weeks.
“When you look at it, we’ve got a big six weeks coming up between now and the new year.
“We’ve got eight league games, so that’s 24 points up for grabs.
“When that sequence is done, we’ll know a bit more about the situation.
“This spell will go a long way to defining our season. It’s not just a number of games, it’s the nature of them because we have to play half the teams who are in and around the top of the table.
“There are some very good sides in this run, so it’s going to be a tough run for us.”
Central defender Neill Collins concurs with Clough’s view about the importance of the coming weeks and is desperate for the Blades to find some hitherto elusive consistency.
United have not won back-to-back games since February and the experienced Collins says rediscovering a winning formula is paramount.
Collins commented: “There’s no question we are going into an important few weeks.
“The games are coming thick and fast and we need to go on a run of unbeaten games now.
“It’s an opportunity for us to get right up that table. But it’s no good winning one and losing one, like we have been doing so far.
“We’ve got to start stringing the victories together. We know we are more than capable of doing that.
“Before this season started, we had not been used to losing football matches for a couple of years and it’s really irritating.
“What we have to do is win five matches back-to-back and see where we are and reassess our targets again.
“At the moment, we are where we are for a reason and we’ve got to realise that, regroup and do our job to the best of our ability. We need to get consistency and build up confidence.”
Although they are next to bottom with just 12 points from 16 games, a hat-trick of wins would propel them into mid-table and Collins adds: “This season has been disappointing and frustrating. But at the moment, it’s all about staying up and to do that we must stand up and be counted.
“It’s about feeling better about ourselves. Things have not quite gelled so far, but we know it’s only small details because nobody has dominated or battered us so far this season.
“We just need to go out there and do the basics right.”