Sheffield United v Blackpool: John Fleck to heed wise words of Rangers legend Walter Smith

AS Sheffield United’s John Fleck tries to rediscover his best form today, advice from his former Rangers manager Walter Smith – who died this week – will not be far from his thoughts.

Ahead of the visit of Championship rivals Blackpool, the Scotland midfielder has conceded he has not been as efficient as usual this term.

Fleck, 30, cannot put his finger on why – “we’re footballers; sometimes it happens and you go through these periods in your career where things don’t go too well” – but he knows what needs to be done.

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Asked for one thing that stuck with him from the legendary manager Smith, who died on Tuesday aged 73 and gave the Glaswegian his Rangers debut when just 15 years old, he said: “Just trying your best every day.

John Fleck: Remained in awe of Walter Smith. Picture: SportimageJohn Fleck: Remained in awe of Walter Smith. Picture: Sportimage
John Fleck: Remained in awe of Walter Smith. Picture: Sportimage

“Sometimes it might not go well for you on the pitch but as long as you go out there and give 100 per cent, no-one can ever give anything against you. That’s always stuck with me.

“That’s why sometimes when you’re not playing well yourself or as a team, it’s all about working your hardest and I’m pretty sure if you keep doing that you’ll get back to where you want to be.”

There is no doubt Fleck will return to his best but he conceded it was “horrendous” hearing the news about the much-loved ex-Everton and Scotland chief’s death.

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He said: “He was a huge character in the game and he gave me my first chance in the first team at Rangers.

“He gave me my dream, basically, as a kid to play for that club.

“But outside of football, he was just a respectful man. He was an incredible human being, to be honest, when you take away the football side.”

Fleck left Rangers for Coventry City in 2012 and, four years later, he arrived at Bramall Lane.

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He had not kept in touch with Smith but said: “When we got promoted to the Premier League under Chris Wilder he came in to see Chris for a manager’s meeting. I saw him just down the stairs here. He was one of those men when he walked in the room you knew he was there and you’d just be quiet and just stare at him!

“I still didn’t know what to say at that age and I left (Rangers) when I was 19. To see him again at 27, 28 I was still the same wee boy not knowing what to do! That was the type of character he was.”

Blackpool are seeking a fourth win in five games but, if the Blades can deliver a third victory in four outings, they could rise back into the top half of the division by usurping them from 11th.

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