HULL CITY’S manager Nigel Adkins is backing Sheffield United, Leeds United and Middlesbrough to claim promotion to the Premier League this season.
Adkins saw his return to Bramall Lane ruined on Saturday as David McGoldrick’s penalty enabled the Blades to leapfrog Leeds and Boro to claim top spot in the Championship.
Adkins, after facing all three Yorkshire teams in the last week, believes the county will be celebrating an unprecedented promotion hat-trick come May.
“We had three close games,” said Adkins. “Middlesbrough who we drew with, Leeds United on Tuesday, and Sheffield United (on Saturday).
“They are three teams who I think will get promoted this season. Three good sides.
“Why those three? The three teams all play different ways and it shows there’s different ways to play football and win games.
“Middlesbrough are well equipped in what they go and do.
“Leeds, whether they can keep everyone fit is the other side of it, but some of the football they play is really good.
“And Sheffield United are now well equipped. They have an excellent manager, an excellent group of players and are going to be able to deal with injuries.
“They have got a real passionate support who will get behind them.”
Adkins was sacked as Blades manager in May, 2016 after failure to get the South Yorkshire club promoted from League One.
He went on to take over at Hull, but his replacement at Bramall Lane, Chris Wilder, has masterminded United’s revival to leave Adkins impressed.
“Sheffield United have suffered over the past few years, but they are on the up now and it’s only a matter of time before they are back in the Premier League,” he said.
“If you flip it the other way, Hull City, having been in the Premier League, are now going through that transitional period where you have to get all your finances right, the stability of ownership right, and a group of players and team with a way of playing. That takes time and we are going through that transition now.
“Sheffield United have come through that and I think there’s only positive things going to come for the club in the future.”
As United hit top spot defeat left Hull propping up the Championship after collecting just one point from their last five games.
“Everybody understands what football is,” responded Adkins to questions over his own future. “People want change, they constantly want change.
“I am long enough in the tooth to understand what it is all about. But what I can see is a group of players who are grafting and working really hard. They have demonstrated that this week against teams who (were) first, second and third in the division.
“We have drawn 1-1, been beaten 1-0 from a 30-yard shot and 1-0 by a dubious penalty. We have done quite well in all three games. We will find out about ourselves, our team-mates and the people we surround ourselves with.
“What we have is a unity and a group of people who will fight for the cause. But the fact of the matter is we are where we are in the division. We can’t hide away from that. It’s not where we want to be.”
The game hinged on a key couple of minutes in the second half. Blades goalkeeper Dean Henderson pulled off a stunning save to deny Markus Henriksen’s goalbound header before play switched to the opposite end and McGoldrick netted a 70th-minute penalty after Tommy Elphick was judged to have grappled Jack O’Connell to the ground.
Blades chief Wilder said: “Pound for pound that was the best win of the season for me. We had to get into the boys a bit at half-time to raise the tempo and their energy levels, which they did.”
United took over top spot from Leeds, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Brentford at Elland Road in a lunchtime kick-off. Second-placed Boro then slipped to a 2-0 home defeat to Nottingham Forest leaving the door wide open for the Blades.
Controversy reigned at Elland Road where replays showed that there was no contact when Bees striker Ollie Watkins went down under the perceived challenge of the onrushing Bailey Peacock-Farrell with Neal Maupay netting a 62nd-minute penalty.
Leeds restored parity when Pontus Jansson headed home in the 88th minute with the hosts reduced to 10 men in stoppage time when Luke Ayling was dismissed for a second yellow card.
Two goals from Lucas Joao saw Sheffield Wednesday beat Bristol City 2-1 yesterday and climb into the top six.