Andy Crosby knows that winning promotion can be a painful experience.
The former centre-half, once described as “impossible to faze” by a team mate at Brighton, helped Scunthorpe achieve the feat only months after breaking his nose and shattering a cheekbone during a robust encounter with Lincoln in 2005.
Eleven seasons later and now Sheffield United’s assistant manager, Crosby has told the League One club’s players they must demonstrate similar bravery in order to stand any chance of securing a top six place.
Citing the ability to keep clean sheets as being crucial in a division packed full of inconsistent teams, he said: “The mentality of young people, not just footballers, is changing. You can try and improve a player’s mentality but ultimately, when a cross comes into the box, you are either going to try and head it and possibly suffer the consequences or you aren’t. That comes down to what is in your head.”
Although the blame for United’s troubles this term has been apportioned, almost exclusively, on a porous defence, Crosby insisted ahead of tomorrow’s game against Gillingham that every member of Nigel Adkins’ team must be determined to nullify the visitors’ attacking threat.
“As a defender, you should naturally have that instinct, that focus, to keep the ball out of the net,” he said. “Yes, you should be looking to score goals. But your job is to keep the ball out first and foremost. There needs to be that bind between the front and the back though.”
With United trailing sixth-placed Millwall by eight points, Crosby added: “I’ve been involved in many games, either as a player or watching from the touchline, when the final whistle has blown and you’ve thought ‘How have we won that?’ But that’s what it’s all about; finding a way to win, even when you aren’t playing well. Having that nasty streak if you like.”