Nigel Adkins’ last appearance at Bramall Lane proved an excruciating experience, culminating in the now infamous ‘Walk of Shame.’
Two years on, after his reign as Sheffield United manager ended with a home defeat by former club Scunthorpe, the Hull City chief is making plans to return following the Carabao Cup first round draw.
Adkins, whose side are scheduled to visit South Yorkshire in the week commencing August 13, suffered a miserable 12 months at United. Despite, it must be remembered, arriving in a blaze of glory, excitement and expectancy.
But the methods which proved so successful at Glanford Park and then Southampton failed to resonate with a squad which, at various stages of the 2015/16 campaign, seemed absolutely stupefied. Fifty-four games and a mid-table finish in League One later, the axe was inevitable.
What makes the meeting between United and City so intriguing is the fact Adkins and his successor are polar opposites. Chris Wilder, who led the hosts to promotion at the first time of asking and then on to the brink of the play-offs, prefers plain-speaking to the motivational videos so beloved of his predecessor. Wilder is also hugely popular with supporters and, a lifelong fan himself, espouses a more attacking brand of football.
It was that approach which propelled United to an emphatic win when they hosted City in Championship last term. Despite falling behind to a Kamil Grosicki strike, Wilder’s side went on to overwhelm the opposition with Leon Clarke scoring all four of their goals.
“We went one-nil down against the run of play, so it was a big test of character,” Wilder said. “I thought we showed what we’re about, with and without the ball.”
It was an altogether different story 16 weeks later when United travelled to the KCOM Stadium. Chasing a top six finish, against opponents battling relegation, they entered the fixture as red hot favourites. But the only time their temperature approached boiling point was during the post-match inquest. Wilder was incandescent with rage and, despite later retracting his comments, washed his hands of the squad following a shock 1-0 defeat.
To make matters worse, Adkins, who had since replaced Leonid Slutsky, was in charge of City. To the 53-year-old’s credit, he refused to rub salt into his old employers’ wounds.
Although he will insist otherwise, Wilder is expected to use that result as a motivational tool when United renew their rivalry with City and Adkins next term.
“We’re a proud club and we don’t like getting beat,” he said. “In any game.”