A United View was out of the country for the last two weeks of May. When booking a holiday I obviously thought United wouldn't need a trip to Wembley to try and get out of League 1. I genuinely thought we had the resources and capability to gain automatic promotion. Make no excuses this was the weakest League One since we were relegated. How wrong I was.
Whilst I was away United made what, to many in the media and those from outside the club's support, was a surprising decision. Yet to most fans it didn't really shock. Even those who supported Clough and trusted him to put it right knew there was also a strong and vocal faction of support who'd had enough.
The timing has been criticised. Why wait until the end of May? The answer I think comes with what was happening that weekend. Given the geographical spread of our Boars of Directors and hectic business schedules, when would they be likely to have clear diaries to meet and hear Nigel Clough's plans, allowing for a period of reflection and looking forward? The same weekend they had hoped to be in the country to watch the Blades in the Play Off final.
I don't know what happened in that meeting - only those there and any they have shared the confidence of. But it has to be assumed that what was said was not convincing enough for the Board to commit the club's future in Clough's hands. I absolutely respect that and can understand why. As I wrote in a piece for The Star - prior to his departure - the case for Clough staying was based on a need for stability and the need for him to change. We can only assume that the manager wasn't for changing. A stubborn, self belief can only get you so far.
Following the announcement social media was awash with speculation and demands from fans. At times there were more dummies on the floor than at a coffee break at a ventriloquists convention. Reading twitter and Facebook to keep up to date left me wincing at some of the interaction I saw.
For me the the three stand out names in the betting market were Karl Robinson, Nigel Adkins and Mark Warburton. The other name I'd considered previously was Uwe Rosler who had found an opportunity present itself in another part of Yorkshire prior to the denouement of Clough's reign. All three of those names know what is required to get out of this division. All have managed teams playing positive football. Only two were readily available. Would any one take the step down from their current/previous status?
Adkins was that man. I have written, again for The Star, about how positively I viewed his appointment. To attract a manager who has delivered two promotions out of League One and a subsequent promotion to the top tier cannot be judged negatively. Yet in the den of the Internet trolls and the permanently aggrieved (the comments section underneath the article) there was some lively debate.
One commenter decided I was towing the party line - a member of the "Phipps Mafia". A fan happy to spout the rhetoric of the club and co-chairman. Another felt that I wasn't a big Blades fan as neither he or his mates had heard of me. That instantly invalidated my opinion it seems, but allows him to share his. But the big issue they seemed to have was that my piece was yet more spin and that it lacked a critical edge. I'm paraphrasing here.
Yet I struggle to see a negative issue with this appointment, so why look for one? He's the candidate that unified the opinions of a large proportion of a splintered fanbase. When other clubs' fans mocked and said "You'll never get him", it was a comment as much about their perception of Adkins status in the game as it was United's league position.
Where criticism is valid I will offer it. I had concerns over the Clough appointment and have decried performances, even when results suggested there were few grounds for complaint. I have been criticised for negative stances as much as the positive ones. I'll support my club, but don't clap for the sake of it, nor when I feel it is undeserved. But it doesn't make me happy not to clap. It leaves me frustrated at what could/would/should be. That was the case for much of last season.
I'm sure for those who lurk on the comments pages, internet forums and social media waiting for the chance to pounce, always looking for the negatives, will find grounds to complain about our manager. Those who don't like spin will soon tire of a manager who loves to talk to the media without really saying very much. I've read comparisons with politicians and comments about saying a lot but little already. They will grow weary of his boundless positivity, a key aspect of his man-management techniques. That's because they're sat there waiting impatiently, picking away at the club like a crusty scab on their knee.
We all want to hear that the holes in the squad are being addressed, that players are being moved on, but many want to gorge on strawberries for a day, rather than have jam for weeks. Last season we were pleased by early activity in the summer, but it became a case of quantity over quality. This time the required additions are fewer in number and there is still time to have then in place whilst hopefully identifying ways to draw more incisive contributions from the players inherited.
I really hope that this appointment brings the success we crave. Whether it does or not there will be times the club and management make decisions that I don't agree with. At that point I will offer an opinion. But for now we can't judge. We need to be united as one. That's the truth, not spin.