WOE betide any Sheffield United player who may think they ever have cracked it under Nigel Clough – it is not a wise attitude to take.
Bob Harris may have been the beneficiary of considerable praise from his manager this week, having his recent form labelled as ‘brilliant’, but equally knows it comes with the following proviso: ‘do not rest on your laurels and carry on regardless’.
Clough is not one to bestow accolades freely, they have to be earned, something Harris has done. So much so that the Blades manager believes that the 27-year-old is playing the best football of his time at S2.
Not too long ago in the first month of the season, things were not going so well for the former Blackpool defender, who found himself demoted to the bench, albeit relatively briefly.
Plenty of other senior players have also sampled spells there during Clough’s reign and he certainly does not have any favourites.
While Harris is happy to take the praise, he knows what he has to do to stay in the side even accounting for the fact that he is someone Clough clearly rated even before he was handed the manager’s position with the Blades.
Plaudits may be nice, but sometimes a kick up the backside is more important in the greater scheme of things, something Harris acknowledges after his experiences in the late summer.
Harris, who signed permanently at the end of January after a successful loan spell from Blackpool, said: “It is great for your confidence when you know that a manager really wants you.
“The gaffer tried to get me a few times before when he was elsewhere. So when he came in again for me in January, this was the only place I wanted to come.
“I have had a run of games and that has been a big part with regards to my form.
“But I was left out for a few at the start of this season and sometimes I think you need a kick up the backside like that as well.”
The Blades were afforded plenty of platitudes for their outstanding FA Cup feats last season, which culminated in them becoming the first third-tier side to play in the semi-final of a major cup competition at the new Wembley in April.
The fanfare returns to the Lane on Tuesday for their last-eight tie in the Capital One Cup against Premier League outfit Southampton, but the players know there is a pressing item before that, chiefly a trip to the seaside tomorrow for a League One date against Fleetwood, with the Blades well aware of its importance.
They may be in a decent position in fifth spot in League One after 19 games have brought 31 points – 14 more than they managed after the same amount of games last season – but Harris feels now is the time to start making a serious move towards cementing their promotion credentials.
That must start at Fleetwood, a venue which Harris has fond memories of after being part of the Blackpool side who triumphed 5-1 at their neighbours in an FA Cup tie in January, 2012.
Confident the Blades have the wherewithal, resolve and aptitude to do that in the second half of the year and rewind the clock to 2013-14, Harris said: “If we have a good run of four, five or six games, we will be right in the mix.
“We are probably the only team that’s not had that yet but we are still in a good position and in with a good shout.
“We saw last season that this group of players is capable of going on a long run. So there’s no reason why we can’t do it again. I am confident that we can.
“I also think that come January when people start picking-up injuries, that’s when having a big squad with some good depth is really going to come into play. That’s why when everyone was struggling a bit come February or March time of last season, we went on the run that we did.
“That had a big bearing on things looking back.”
The Saints’ quarter-final may have considerable allure, but do not think that a winter’s trip to the coast is not one to savour for Blades fans.
The club quickly sold out their ticket allocation for their maiden trip to the Highbury Stadium and could have sold many more.
Similarly, the home ends will also be packed tomorrow, with the Cod Army baying for a Fleetwood win in an atmosphere more akin to an FA Cup third-round encounter.
The Blades are likely to be the highest-profile side that Fleetwood have welcomed for a league fixture and Clough, for one, is giving them their dues.
He said: “I think we’d sell out our away allocation twice if we had the chance.
“It is one of those fixtures where, when you come from where you have come from, Sheffield United is a huge game.
“They are there on merit and an exceptionally good team.
“Their crowd will be up for it and I am sure their players will. We’ve got to be ready for all that.
“We will remind the players, but we hope they will have already worked it out as well.”