James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Blades must become bullies

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All wins are equal but some, as every football fan knows, are more equal than others.

It is a notion Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, alluded to following last weekend’s victory over Gillingham and which, depending upon the final outcome, could be pertinent again following tomorrow’s game against Chesterfield at the Proact Stadium.

Beating a local rival or securing victory by scoring a flurry of late goals always feels better than inflicting a defeat upon a team from the other end of the country or a routine and relatively comfortable success.

So, even though it would be worth no more than, say, overcoming Crewe Alexandra, should Clough’s players dispatch Paul Cook’s side then it would have a disproportionate effect upon confidence. Both on and off the pitch.

The result will also be significant for another, more scientific reason, too. Because the fixture brings together two teams who both fancy their chances of going-up.

Although only one enjoys the luxury of knowing that avoiding relegation will also, to some degree, be regarded as a success.

Ignoring the opening day defeat by Bristol City, United have won two of their four matches against rivals above them in the League One rankings before kick-off and drawn with Preston North End. That would place them seventh in the table if only fixtures against those in the top half of the table counted.

Last term, using exactly the same measure, they would have finished 10th and the campaign before, second.

Curiously, United are only ninth best when it comes to beating those in the bottom half this season. They were also ninth in 2013/14 and 10th in 2012/13.

Since 2012, six different clubs have achieved automatic promotion to the Championship. None have ever finished lower than fourth when it came to calculating who was most effective at defeating sides positioned twelfth and below.

So perhaps it should be those recent triumphs over Rochdale and Colchester which set pulses racing among the United faithful? Clough’s call for his players to be more ruthless now seems more than just a slick soundbite.

Because it pays to be a bully in League One.

*Twitter: @JamesShield1