With keeping clean sheets a paramount to success in League One many Sheffield United fans have been left scratching their heads at the decision to take two experienced defenders away from the first team.
As any Blades fan will tell you it was strange to see the club sign an experienced defender at this Level in Andy Butler to see him play only one game in which he scored a goal then to see him loaned out twice to rivals in the same division.
Also after being a key member of the first team for many years the decision to not include Neill Collins since the Chesterfield game in early October (scoring one of The Blades two goals in the process) again supporters ask themselves “why?”
There have been rumors of fall outs with the manager along with rumors that Collins may have assaulted someone in the changing room, but the truth is no one is really sure why the two defenders have found themselves surplus to requirements in the mind of Nigel Clough.
Clough had raised reservations about Butler’s performances in pre-season when asked why he was left out of the opening day squad, after the second game of the season Butler was pictured with fans of his old club whilst attending his previous club Walsall’s home game. Clough explained he had given Butler the day off but had no plans to let Andy leave saying “The way he can get back in, what any player in their position should do, is to keep on working hard during training. Because, if I was in their situation, I’d think nothing is set in stone as the team has lost its first two games.” When asked if Butler was on his way out he said “we have no plans to let him go.” Under a week later he was loaned back to former club Walsall.
The Collins situation is a little more shrouded in mystery, after being left out of the match day squad Clough was asked what the situation was, and Clough went into a bizarre almost rehearsed statement about the door always being open and if Neill had an issue he should raise it with him, almost as if Nigel was unsure if the defender had made a statement without him being aware. The statement about the open door was reiterated various times over the next few weeks which included many more omissions from the first team.
So with the future of both players still unsure the mystery as to what has caused all this remains unsolved, and with Paddy McCarthy’s loan ending soon experienced centre half’s are not exactly in abundance at Bramall Lane.
If this is a case of don’t cross the boss one would have to hope that the situations are resolved sooner rather than later, I hold more hope of Collins returning than I do Butler with his move to Doncaster being confirmed this week, but until more is known we will all have to continue playing the guessing game.
- Jonathan Gascoigne