Wigan v Sheffield Utd: Adkins aiming for a steady return to former club

Sheffield United manager Nigel Adkins.
Sheffield United manager Nigel Adkins.
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TWELVE months on from the first ‘non-football’ Christmas of his professional life, Nigel Adkins is afforded a return to a club that he certainly knows well in Wigan Athletic.

This time last year, Adkins, freshly out of work after leaving Reading, had a rare Christmas with his family back in his native Birkenhead – without the commitments of a Boxing Day game to attend or prepare for.

Yesterday, it was back to the familiar footballing routine of training on Christmas Day – ahead of what is a key game with his old club today.

Adkins, seeking to cut the gap between themselves and fifth-placed Wigan to one point this afternoon, said: “I’ve been in football since the age of 16 and last year was the first day when I didn’t have to think on Christmas Day about playing or preparing for a game the day after.

“It was strange. We went around to The Swan, which was the local on our estate in Birkenhead, put some hats on, had a drink and then went back to mum’s for a lovely dinner.

“Did I enjoy it? Yes. Would I want to do it again? No. Football is my job.”

While there will be a touch of sentiment for Adkins when he returns to Wigan today, albeit with an appointment at the DW Stadium and not their former home of Springfield Park, his main focus will strictly be upon business in a bid to propel the Blades into firm promotion contention.

He added: “I’m looking forward to Wigan because I played for them at Springfield Park.

“They won the FA Cup not so long back it just goes to show how challenging it is to stay at the top.

“Football changes all the time and, if you take your foot of the gas or don’t accept that, you’ll get hurt. You’ve got to be on it all the time.

“From my time at Wigan, I remember breaking my cheekbone, fracturing my wrist and my finger and also getting a double fracture of the spine! And I saved a John Barnes penalty in front of The Kop.

“The supporters named their club after me at Springfield; ‘Steady’. They sent me something when we were at Southampton saying they are still going strong. I used to shout ‘steady’ all the time when I was in goal and the crowd could hear it!”

On the present-day Wigan line-up, he added: “Wigan play a different way to most teams in our division.

“If we leave ourselves wide open, a la against Coventry, then they’ve got players who can hurt you.”