Sheffield United: Sparky on Pompey, the play-offs and social media '˜rows'
Before he starts discussing Portsmouth's play-off semi-final against Plymouth Argyle, Marc McNulty wants to get something off his chest.
“I get on great with Billy (Sharp) and there’s absolutely no problem between us,” he says. “In fact, he’s probably one of the people I keep in touch with the most. So when people say there was a issue, well, it just makes me laugh. There’s nothing in it. Nothing at all.”
McNulty is referring to the mythical row which, according to many social media commentators, explained why Sheffield United manager Nigel Adkins allowed him to join Paul Cook’s side on loan six months ago. The truth, not to mention to source of the rumours, is actually much more mundane.
“A mate of mine was on Twitter and he tagged Billy in on a message,” McNulty continues. “But, because of predictive text, his name came out as ‘Bully’ and a few people took it the wrong way. Straight away he explained what had happened, that it was a mistake, but I suppose it just went from there.”
McNulty’s performances since heading to Fratton Park - “The gaffer (Adkins) thought it was best if I went out to get some games” - have been a driving force behind Portsmouth’s sixth-placed finish in League Two last season. And, fitness permitting, he is set to spearhead the south coast club’s attack in the home leg of their double-header against Argyle tonight.
“I’ve really enjoyed myself down here,” McNulty admits. “It’s been a great experience and I’ve learnt a hell of a lot. It certainly helped that, when I first came down, Michael Doyle and Ben Davies, who I knew from Sheffield United last season, were already here. That really helped me settle in.
“The play-offs are going to be tough but I think we’re all confident we can do it. Not cocky. Just confident. Pompey, like United, are a huge club and the fans have been brilliant with me just like they are at Bramall Lane too.”
The question most United supporters want answering, of course, is will they see McNulty back in South Yorkshire next term? Having scored 11 times in 23 starts, Cook would undoubtedly like to retain the young Scot’s services although Adkins, whose position is under threat following a disappointing first season in charge, has told the centre-forward to report back for training in June.
“The situation, as far as I’m aware, is that I’ve been told to come back for pre-season,” McNulty, signed from Livingston by Adkins’ predecessor Nigel Clough, said. “You never know what is going to happen in football and all I’m focusing on right now is trying to get Portsmouth up. Yes, I’m not going to deny that I was a bit disappointed not be given more of a chance at the start of the season with United. Especially after ending-up as joint top goalscorer last year. But that’s the game, you get on with it and work hard.
“I definitely think I’m an even better player now. I was expected to score goals the minute I came down here which was new because, when I first joined United, people probably hadn’t heard of me before. But I thrive on that pressure, that expectation of having to deliver and playing in front of a big crowd. It doesn’t bother me because that’s what I’m paid to do. Score goals.”