SHARPENING UP FOR BLADES TRIP
Martin Jol believes the team's battling qualities will have to come to the fore when we bid to return to winning ways against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday.
Martin Jol believes the team's battling qualities will have to come to the fore when we bid to return to winning ways against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday.Neil Warnock's side are unbeaten in their last three at home in the league - including victories over Arsenal and Fulham - and have suffered just four defeats on their own patch, with Manchester United and Chelsea accounting for two of them. United are currently seven points clear of the drop zone in their first season back in the top flight.
"Sheffield United battle and have been involved in some unbelievable games," said Martin. "They have had some decent results at home, while they have struggled a bit away from home, but a few other teams have suffered with that...
"At home they are recognised as a strong team and they are doing well in their bid to stay up. It will be difficult to go there, but everybody knows we need a result so we can get back in the top ten and go places in the league again. That is the most important thing."
Martin went on to emphasise that the team will require a solidity in their approach to Saturday's encounter, with this season's away day return not matching that of last term.
"In the last couple of years away from home we had some good results and, if we didn't win, we kept some clean sheets and took some points.
"Recently we have been a little bit vulnerable and have conceded some cheap goals at home too - we have to cut that out. Against Manchester United I couldn't really complain about the penalty kick because we let in three quick goals after that. They are a very good side, but we have to compete in midfield and having players like Jermaine Jenas and Teemu Tainio back will help.
"We have to do better off the ball, we have to get the ball back and show aggression. It is not only about passion - they are passionate players - it is about physical and mental strength as well.
"We will show that against Sheffield United - we need a result."
Meanwhile, England manager Steve McClaren's decision to blood goalkeeper Ben Foster in the full international arena against Spain in midweek provoked a critical assessment of Paul Robinson's form in the build up to the game.
Martin agreed with the thinking of McClaren, while stating his belief that our keeper will be restored to the No.1 jersey when England return to action.
"Of course he is our top man, but it is the same for Paul as any other player or manager at the top. If you don't get the right results or you are not at your absolute best, then the knives will come out.
"I don't think that is a bad thing to have to prove yourself week in, week out.
"Foster playing against Spain was good because how many goalkeepers are there that can be called on to play at that level now? It was right to give him his chance and it had nothing to do with Robbo.
"Sometimes it is good to take a little step back but Robbo will come back again, he is training hard and when he is on top of his game he is the best goalkeeper in England.
"There is no problem, it is hard to perform to the maximum all the time, but he has done unbelievably well for us over the last couple of years. We haven't had the best of spells and he is part of our team, you have to be honest about it.
"Other keepers do need a chance but I know and our supporters know that if Robbo is at his best he will be No.1 because in my mind, without a shadow of a doubt, he is the best," added Martin, who suspects the criticism will only serve to fuel the 27-year-old's desire to prove himself as such.
"We are sportsmen, we like to do well, we want to do better, we like to prove people wrong and that is a very good habit.
"I know Paul will prove people wrong and that is the best quality of a top player."