Clough looking for Blades to reprise superb start to 2014

NIGEL CLOUGH has challenged Sheffield United to emulate their magnificent run in the second half of last season – and he believes the present-day Blades are a better side.

For the second campaign running, Clough’s side must negotiate a fixture glut following on from their 57-game season in 2013-14, which saw them reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup and make an early Spring pitch for the play-offs,

The Blades, in the last four of the Capital One Cup and in the fourth round of the FA Cup after a superb 3-0 win at Premier League QPR, will play at least 60 games this year, but you will not catch Clough complaining about fixture overload.

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With the Blades hopeful of boosting their numbers this month and the quality already at his disposal, Clough feels his squad are well placed to make it another season to remember. This time last year, United were in a relegation battle in 20th.

Clough, whose side play the first leg of a league and FA Cup double-header with rivals Preston tomorrow, said: “We think we are a better team this year.

“We are going to try and put on a similar run and hopefully we have had our bad time.

“We are still in the top six and are still not halfway through the season and are going to strengthen this January and are not ruling out automatic promotion at all.

“I think by the end of February, we will probably know if we are capable of putting a run together depending who comes in and if we get to a cup final and things like that.”

On a potential fatigue factor, he added: The lads were dead on their feet at times at the end of last season and they will be again in the next few months. But we have a better squad to deal with it.”

The Blades travel to Notts County in the league on Tuesday February 17.