Scunthorpe v Sheffield United: Blades refreshed for final furlong sprint

IT was Nigel Clough’s late father Brian who once famously said that preparation is relaxation and his son has partly adhered to that advice this week.

Nigel Clough
Nigel Clough

Clough snr was a master at getting players to relax ahead of big games, famously ordering his Nottingham Forest players not to go to bed before drinking a crate of champagne the night before a successful League Cup final triumph against Southampton at Wembley in 1979.

Nigel’s policy this week may not be anywhere near as unorthodox, but a team day out at the Cheltenham Festival after a gruelling fixture schedule has had the desired effect of recharging players’ batteries ahead of the key run-in.

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That trip may have been pre-booked, but it came at the perfect time, given a run of three games without a win. Some players have been running on empty, according to Clough, not surprising given his side have played 49 games already this term.

Clough, whose side have not played in midweek for the first time in seven weeks, said: “With the amount of games we have had this season, the last thing we wanted was running sessions and we have no problems with fitness or anything like that or injured players.

“Bob Harris came off in the last 10 minutes on Saturday and just gave us a shout from the far side and said he was shattered. I couldn’t tell you the last time that Bob missed a minute of a game.

“We have been Saturday-Tuesday, Saturday-Tuesday, so we have no problem when Bob puts his hand up and says: ‘Listen, I am running out empty here for the last 10 minutes’.

“A lot of players have reached that stage and that’s why to get this clear week, letting them go to Cheltenham was important.

“Everything now is irrelevant from the past seven months. All that matters is these last 12 games, hopefully 15.”