Blades have spirit and the squad capable of launching title challenge

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Kieron Freeman believes the Bramall Lane camaraderie will go a long way to bringing success at Sheffield United this season.

The Blades sit seventh in League One, on 17 points from their first 11 games of the season.

Kieron Freeman of Sheffield Utd plays the ball forward. (Picture: Martyn Harrison/Blades)

Kieron Freeman of Sheffield Utd plays the ball forward. (Picture: Martyn Harrison/Blades)

While recent results in the league have been poor – just one win in six – Freeman insists the spirit in the dressing room remains strong.

Tuesday’s 5-1 win over Notts County in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy has certainly bolstered morale ahead of today’s league visit of Rochdale.

It starts a run of four games in five at Bramall Lane which Freeman is hoping the Blades can capitalise on as they look to haul in early leaders Burton Albion.

“That’s a big positive, and for me personally I always like playing at home,” said the 23-year-old defender.

“The fans and the atmosphere are great here and I think it scares opponents to come here, such a big stage.

“Sometimes it can help the other way, too, and the opposition raise their game.

“But for me, personally, I really enjoy play at Bramall Lane.

“A lot of teams come and sit off but if we can get the early goal, their fans will be getting on their back wanting them to attack us. It can be quite tactical at times.

“Even in training, pool, darts, ping-pong, we always want to win.

“Obviously, the fans gets frustrated, we do, too, but all we can do is keep trying to win every game of football that we play.

“I enjoy how passionate the fans are. They are just like us, they want to win everything.”

It is a winning mentality that has been tested of late, losing back-to-back home games against Bury and Colchester United, drawing at Burton before a 2-1 loss at Port Vale last weekend.

But Freeman is adamant United’s close-knit group of players, who can be seen relaxing together at United’s Shirecliffe complex after training, can deliver success come May.

“The boys are very close,” said Freeman, who joined United from Derby County in January, following a successful loan spell in 2014. “We all hang around together at training ground, and when we leave, we hang out a lot with each other away from the training ground.

“It’s a close group. We work hard in training, in the gym, but it’s good to have downtime, to chill, eat our food and have down-time with the boys and maybe stick our legs up a bit. To have a tight-knit group, like we have, is massive. Like in any workplace, you should all get on.

“I get on with all the lads here and have a good laugh. Even the new lads come straight into the team, and fit straight in.

“We have all bought into the way the gaffer wants to play, how we go about things, and you can see from the boys we all celebrate together and lose together. We have a good team spirit.”

The last international break came at the wrong time for the Blades, who had won four successive games in League One.

But after enduring a fortnight’s break due to international call-ups for the September 5 weekend, United have stuttered, winning just once in six league outings.

So Tuesday’s impressive cup romp against Notts County was a welcome return to form for Nigel Adkins’s side, who, after Rochdale today, also host Fleetwood and Millwall this month.

“That result was coming, a game where we scored a high amount of goals,” reflected Freeman.

“We played some really good stuff and I think we can kick on from that.

“Consistency comes into it, but I think we have a had a lot of bad luck as well.

“We are playing games where teams are only having two chances, but scoring from them.

“We are having 19-20, and not scoring. But as long as we keep creating those chances, at some point it will turn around and we will be beating teams like we did Tuesday night, 5-1.

“I always feel we are going to get chances in a game, and we are going to score. It’s a nice positive feeling to have.”

Under Atkins, United are a more attacking unit than under previous manager Nigel Clough, and Freeman insists that sometimes comes at a cost defensively.

Still, the Blades have kept four clean sheets in the opening quarter of the season, and will be further strengthened with the impending return of injured players like John Brayford.

“We have four clean sheets in 11 league games, which isn’t bad,” he said.

“There are a lot of games in the season. We want to keep clean sheets, but we are very attacking this season and sometimes that does come at a cost.

“We have bundles of options up front and wide, very creative players, and I have full faith in our attacking players. We are always going to get chances in games.

“This season the squad is bigger, so we have more options, and it’s hard for the gaffer to pick. It’s a manager’s dream and a manager’s curse.

“We are only going to get better with the more games, and the more we play with each other.

“It’s only a quarter of games gone, and obviously the greatest start would be first, but it doesn’t always work like that.

“In this league, there are a lot of games. We have seven games this month.

“With us having a big squad, that might help us out in the long run. If other teams pick one or two injuries up, you never know where they are going to end up.”

Adkins himself, is not too worried at being outside of the play-offs. He believes a good indicator will come in the new year.

He said: “We are in the race, we’d all love to be in front, but at the moment we are tucked into the pack.

“For me, it’s all about staying in the race until January and then putting ourselves in a position whereby we can go and win it.”