Nigel Clough deserves huge credit for guiding Sheffield United to within a whisker of the FA Cup final last term, but winning a division in which the Blades have been stuck in for three seasons is a more herculean task.
While promotion is certainly a realistic proposition and no doubt the only thing scrawled on Clough’s seasonal agenda, their status as title favourites looks slightly questionable for some key reasons.
1. Seventh to first is an almighty leap by anyone’s standards
There are not many clubs in English football history who can claim to have finished seventh one season, then taken the title the next, just ask Liverpool.
Without getting bogged down with a paper trail longer than the Watergate scandal, Everton’s 1984/85 English league title after finishing 83/84 is one of the only such occassions which sticks in the mind.
Although Wolves ran away with it to an extent during 2013/14, United still have to bridge a 19-point gap on last season’s third-place team Leyton Orient, who remain in the division.
2. Nigel Clough’s managerial record
The son of Brian was always going to have a bit to live up to when he turned his hand to management, and in all honesty over 16 years in the dug-out the jury is still out in many places.
Besides two non-League titles with Burton spread over nearly a decade, Clough’s 41.71 per cent total win percentage isn’t inspirational stuff.
Before the Rams pulled the plug, his last five Championship finishes at Derby read 18th, 14th, 19th, 12th and 10th.
3. There isn’t a double-figure goal scorer in the squad
What every self-respecting title-winning side needs in their team is a predatory goal scorer.
Unfortunately for the Blades that isn’t the case, with Chris Porter’s tally of seven in the league last term, the most of anyone on their books
Not since notorious striker Ched Evans chalked up 29 during 2011/12 has any striker in red and white hit over 15 league goals.
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