Season review 2013/14 – Sheffield United

A third successive year in League 1, it’s been an interesting one at Bramall Lane. Co-editor Joe looks back at the season.

Pleasure to watch or utter disaster?
Such a crazy and unexpected season at Bramall Lane. There was mild optimism in the summer that David Weir would bring a new style and better fortune to a club that had failed in the League 1 playoffs two seasons running. This evaporated from the second game in. Attempts to remedy the poor start by strengthening the team at the end of August (the result of Saudi businessman Prince Abdullah becoming a co-owner of the club) only seemed to make things worse. With the Prince no doubt concerned to see his new investment spiralling towards League 2, Weir was removed.

Clough has now repaired the damage caused by David Weir's first managerial job

Nigel Clough has now repaired the damage caused by David Weir’s first few months in charge

Nigel Clough began a difficult process of completely remoulding the style of a team that was low on confidence, leaking goals, and ineffective going forward. And it’s taken some perseverance at times – even on Feb 1st the club was 23rd, but thereafter the team has been a joy to watch, unrecognisable from the group Weir managed. The cup run, for a League 1 club battling relegation, was superb – with at last the club putting in a decent performance at Wembley. Rising to 7th, the season’s ended too quickly for us in the end.

What started off as a club entering difficult financial times under an untested manager with a long-suffering and despondent following has really been transformed. The club appears to have the right people off the field, and an excellent manager that’s playing exciting football at a positive Bramall Lane. It’s the worst league position the club’s finished a season in since 1982/83. And yet, it’s the most optimistic I’ve been at the end of a season since we were promoted from the Championship 8 years ago.

Who’s been this season’s hero?
Harry Maguire. The third season in a row where he’s been in League 1’s team of the year, and at Christmas he was still the club’s top goalscorer. Not bad for a player that only turned 21 in March. You suspect the club may have to fend off bids this summer – a big test for the new owners.

And the villain?
David Weir by default, though by freeing up the job in October he helped enable the club to get the then-out-of-work Clough, who wasn’t available in the summer. I think most won’t therefore hold a grudge against the guy.

Manager’s report
David Weir – on paper, he should have been great. In reality it was a disaster. Not at all helped by the sale of Kevin McDonald, who he’d appeared to base his entire system around, but there was a sense he tried to change too much too quickly, bringing in the wrong people and shattering the confidence of existing players. His sacking, criticised as rash in the media, couldn’t have been better timed.

Nigel Clough – he’s surpassed all expectations. Watching some of his early unsuccessful games, I was concerned we might have made a wrong choice. I needn’t have been. Once he had re-coached the players in some basic necessities (primarily reminding them how to defend), he added some serious quality in January (John Brayford, Bob Harris, Stefan Scougall) and brought the best out of existing talent (Ryan Flynn, Jamie Murphy, Conor Coady). Above all, he’s brought back optimism to the club. With a good pre-season, and the addition of one or two players that meet Clough’s quality & character criteria (particularly up front), next season could be great.

Best signing
Stefan Scougall. I’m not sure how we’ve managed to sign Wee Scougs – his acceleration, heart, and footballing brain suggest he could be a huge player for us.

Worst signing
Marlon King. A symbol of just how desperate things got under David Weir that he signed an unfit striker, with a history of off-the-field baggage, that nobody else would touch with a barge pole. Mercifully released by Clough in December.

Rising star
Connor Dimaio. He’s made his debut and pushed ahead of other youngsters to get first team experience in the middle of midfield – the signs are Clough will use him more next season.

Highlight of the season
Chris Porter’s late double to complete the comeback against Notts Forest in the cup.

Low point of the season
On February 1st we lost 3-0 away at fellow strugglers Crewe, dropping us to 23rd. A low point, but also a turning point for the team – they haven’t looked back since.

I’ll remember this season for…
…John Brayford’s beard.

The Brayford Beard in full flight.

Written by Joseph Clift (@josephclift)

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