Safety-first as Clough lays the foundations

THE 2013-14 campaign has already been a roller-coaster one for Blades fans and Nigel Clough for one is hankering for the mundane confines of mid-table by winter’s end.

Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough

Sheffield United supporters have had their fill of dramas on the back of an horrendous start to the season.

It saw United go from the opening game of the season until October 19 without a three-point haul, with the 10-game winless league streak costing manager David Weir his job and leaving their side in deep trouble at the foot of the table.

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The Blades are currently enjoying the flip side by virtue of a run of one defeat in their past 10 matches in all competitions.

Considerable gloss was applied thanks to last weekend’s stunning and fully deserved FA Cup third round success at Premier League outfit Aston Villa, which earned a home tie against Norwich or Fulham.

More pertinently, the run has pushed the club up to sixth-from-bottom in League One.

Clough is hoping that momentum can continue in the coming weeks and months and enable them to build a firm foundation for a promotion tilt next term.

If that means being in a safe and boring position in the not-too-distant future, away from relegation danger, Clough will not be complaining.

The Blades chief – whose side today make the short journey down the M1 to Notts County, who lie second-from-bottom and are managed by former Blades player Shaun Derry – said: “The season is only about halfway through and we are only a point or two from the bottom four. We have got an awful lot to do yet and it is not the end of the table where, ultimately, we want to be.

“Our first aim is to get firmly away from that bottom four, so we are not looking over shoulders too much so we get to that boring mid-table position which won’t be boring at all when we achieve it.

“That will put everybody’s minds at rest and, as soon as we do that, we can start building for next season.

“All games are important, but especially when you are playing against teams in and around you and you have to make sure you don’t lose to them. Now we have got ourselves out of the bottom four, we don’t want to get dragged back into it.”