Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic hoping to add three players in January - but unsure if he can
The club’s Serbian manager says his private life is so tied up with his professional one that the fact his team is not playing to its potential is spoiling it, and he has spent the last two weeks on the training ground trying to do something about it, starting with tomorrow’s televised game against Coventry City.
But Jokanovic has had no boardroom assurances about whether he will improve things further with the three signings he wants in January.
If the Sky Blues, fourth in the Championship under ex-Rotherham United, Barnsley and Huddersfield Town manager Mark Robins, are exceeding expectations this season, the opposite is true of the Blades - 17th with two wins in their last eight games.
“We know where we are and we know the situation around us,” said Jokanovic. “We know we’re not doing a good enough job and making people around us satisfied.
“In this situation you can be depressed or you can show your personality. If you are satisfied with our situation, you are completely wrong.
“I am not especially enjoying my private life because I’m not especially enjoying my professional life. There is a really strong connection.
“I came here to live my life and at the moment it’s flat, like our performances and results. I want to be a happier man but I need support.
“I cannot wait for the future, I need to live my life immediately.”
The answer, he says, is players taking more responsibility. It is a message he has been drumming into them during an enforced 14-day period of reflection since defeat at Blackburn Rovers.
“It’s a lot of time to be wanting revenge but we needed to do a lot of thinking and I’ve given my team some feedback,” he revealed. “We are trying to move the team in the right direction.
“We’ve tried to use these two weeks to refresh our minds, to encourage people to change our story.
“At the moment we are so kind, we roll out the carpet for the opposition team. They feel so comfortable on our pitch. This is simply not acceptable.
“We are not where we expected to be and we have to grow up and put ourselves in the level we understand is our place in the Championship.
“I don’t believe we are the best team in the world but we are definitely better than we are showing now and where we are right now (in the Championship table).
“I hope we can soon be talking about positive things and happier situations but if you are only waiting for it to happen like some miracle from the skies, it won’t. We have to take responsibility.
“If you want to hide behind me I will protect you like a small kid, I will do it, but show me you are adult, show me you are brave and do your job.
“You cannot work in this world without personality. I don’t want to say we don’t have it but we aren’t showing enough at the moments when we need to compete.
“If we need to avoid individual mistakes I will point the finger at my players and expect a reaction. We will see what happens.
“One of the reasons I came here was because I trusted the players. At the moment I haven’t found the right answers, they haven’t shown what I expect from them.”
Jokanovic urged his players to show him they share his belief in them.
“If you don’t believe in yourself you are in completely the wrong place as a sportsman,” he insisted. “You can’t be living life without any confidence.
“I trust in myself and I tell my players I think I am a really good coach. Other people can have different opinions. I don’t want to be arrogant but living without self-confidence is completely the wrong choice.”
Jokanovic will push for signings in January, having not got everything he wanted in the summer. He has been given no indication as to whether he will be granted them, or if he will have to sell first after a summer where the only transfer fee involving the Blades was for outgoing goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
“I believe this team needs three players in different positions to find some more balance and be more competitive,” he said.
“I don’t have any assurances, but my position is clear. Without mentioning specific names, I believe we need to cover these positions.
“I am thinking more about adding the players we need than selling anyone.”
Goalkeeper Robin Olsen returned from international duty with a rib injury which makes him doubtful for tomorrow, whilst Oli McBurnie is isolating until next Friday having been a close contact of a Covid-19 sufferer.
Ben Davies has trained throughout the international break, Sender Berge has completed three sessions, and Rhys Norrington-Davies was back on the Shirecliffe grass yesterday.