Sheffield United’s John Egan: ‘We have an unbelievable attitude and there’s still a chance’

To listen to what Sheffield United are saying now, you wouldn’t think they were facing relegation as they sit bottom of the Premier League, 10 points off safety with five games remaining.

“The attitude is unbelievable,” John Egan said. “Obviously where we are in the league now but there’s still a chance to win a big football game every weekend. That could really be our motto, get ready for the next game and try to win.

You wouldn’t think from a conversation like this that Egan just went through one of the toughest stretches of his career with an Achilles injury. The Irish centre-back was a key player in Sheffield United’s most prestigious period in the Premier League in 2019-20, but tough financial realities could mean both he and the club have to make a decision in the summer.

In that sense, it almost shows the fragility of the sport, despite all its riches. Egan recalled the injury he sustained during a mostly innocuous moment on the field. The centre-back was awarded a corner kick when Sheffield United played away to West Ham United in September.

“I just stepped aside and I felt someone kick me in the back of my leg.” Egan looked around and saw no one, so he asked West Ham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola what had happened.

“He said, ‘There’s no one next to you’, so I thought, ‘I might be in trouble here’.”

“It’s a partial tear where my Achilles tendon meets my calf, so that’s a little unusual. It’s not a complete rupture.’ (Getty Images)

A partial tear in his Achilles tendon led to an unusual season for Egan personally, especially as he had to sit on the sidelines through a down period for the club. However, the 31-year-old is now returning to fitness and the team is getting better. Chris Wilder’s side have been unable to muster enough wins to push themselves back to safety, but performances were improving until Saturday’s 4-1 defeat at home to Burnley.

That magic encourages him, especially if this is his last season. Originally from Cork, Egan spent almost six years at United and embraced the club’s identity. “This is the longest I’ve ever spent at an English club and we’ve had a lot of success,” he said. “When I look back on my career so far, all my best moments have been at Manchester United. We were promoted to the Premier League twice and had a great first year and I joined the Irish team while I was at Manchester United. I loved it. Every minute. This is a great club and the Premier League is where it should be.

No one can tell what this season will be like, but it’s almost a lesson learned. When Sheffield United returned for the first time in the 2019-20 season, their performance was stunning. Wilder’s “overlapping centre-backs” have become a hot topic in the Premier League, confusing many of the Premier League’s best teams. It also puts them above many of the best teams, as United have spent a lot of time in Europe. Egan was at the center of it all, holding it all together as Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell charged forward.

“That’s an interesting thing. Obviously we did it in the Championship and a lot of teams were struggling. When we went up there everyone started to see that because you play in the Premier League so There were more eyes. It caused a lot of problems for the team. It was all about the overload. Every team started playing against us and it was a good time. Focused on defensive tasks and kept a lot of clean sheets and everything seemed to be going well.

It was almost a lesson learned to give the team the best chance of avoiding relegation, and now Luton Town have that element in them. “In my experience, this is probably the best option unless you’re going out and have millions to spend!”

With Nottingham Forest and Everton both deducted points this season and the relegation situation becoming more complicated, Egan reflects the view of most players: they are just going with the flow. They can’t focus on the issues that confuse many people in the game.

It’s a battle for survival like no other, but United focus on themselves (Getty Images)

However, relegation may come with financial realities and Egan is considering next steps. He just wants to be fully fit but with his contract expiring in the summer he admits it may be time to move on. That possibility got him thinking about the ephemeral nature of football. “It’s part of the game,” he admits. “You could be somewhere for six months, you could be somewhere for six years. You never know.

Egan also retained other connections, such as a flat near Griffin Park he had at Brentford. He always found friends and family from Cork in London.

It’s been a tough time for the Irish national team at this point. Egan’s injury comes at a time when they have been without a senior manager for a long time, which is likely to last until September. Despite being hesitant about the job, Egan is optimistic about the young team. He believes progress has been made under interim John O’Shea.

“It’s a bit strange but it’s great to see John win two games. Obviously he’s a coach before and I’m really pleased he’s been able to lead Ireland out. A lot of the young players have improved over the last few years. , they will only get better with experience. We have a very young team now who are playing in the Premier League and Championship every week, so there is a lot to be excited about even at the end. A couple of games, I also thought we did really well against Belgium.

Egan has seen Ireland improve during his absence (Getty Images)

The situation has sparked many debates about talent development in Ireland, but Egan’s views reflect the fact that this is a changed world. While nearly all of the country’s teams used to compete in the Premier League, the game was far less global than it is now. It has become an international league, which means Egan is proud to be a part of it.

“This is a world league. Not many players get this opportunity. That’s why going up is a huge achievement for us. We have to really push hard.

This also means a severe test. That’s why Egan is taking a particular side in the ongoing Erling Haaland debate. After all, the 31-year-old must directly try to stop the Manchester City striker.

“He is an absolute goalscorer. The idea is that when he is in the box, someone has to mark him. We play with three centre-backs so we always check our shoulders for him. When you have to work hard Keep an eye on him and outnumber him in the box but you know, no matter how the game goes, he’s probably going to take it. into the network.

“You have to be so focused throughout the game that your brain is more tired afterward than your body because you’re always concentrating and talking to the people around you.”

It’s still the type of challenge Egan enjoys. He was ready for more.

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