Sheffield United fan Ian Parkes tells us how Liverpool youngster Conor Coady has been playing and progressing during his loan spell at The Blades.
When Conor Coady signed for Sheffield United on a youth loan in the summer of 2013, there was a feeling of excitement from the Bramall Lane faithful. Coady had recently captained his country at the Under 20 World Cup so for a player with this potential to join United in League One appeared to be something of a coup. Having read up on Coady prior to his arrival, it appeared that he was player who is held in high regards at Anfield and the promise of first team football was seen as the next stepping stone towards a long term career with the Reds.
Conor made his debut as a substitute on the opening day of the season and instantly got to speed with the game and looked like he had been playing League One football for some time. His passing looked neat and tidy, he appeared to have a good engine on him and he even looked like he had a turn of pace in his locker. In the following few games Coady was in and out of the starting XI and found it hard to find his rhythm or get a consistent run of games that could allow him to show he had more to him than the glimpses of ability we saw against Notts County.
During David Weir’s ill-fated tenure, Coady never really found his best form and looked as if he was struggling with the physicality and robust nature of League One football. His first touch seemed to be failing him and he even looked to have lost the energy that has been the hall mark of his performances in recent weeks. Whilst Coady was not alone in under-performing under former Everton defender Weir, it looked like he may be deemed surplus to requirements when his initial loan expired in January.
When Nigel Clough took over the reigns at the Lane, Coady was again used sparingly at first and was predominantly a substitute whilst the team and the manager found their feet in a new system. When Coady did finally get a run of games in the team, he was used in an unfamiliar wide position and though he showed a lot of willingness and energy, he looked lost on the wing and again looked like a player who was being used as a stop gap until we had other options.
Like United, Coady has started to produce his best performances during the fantastic FA Cup run that has seen us reach the Quarter Final and he hasn’t looked back since a playing a starring role against Fulham at Bramall Lane. In that game and in the games which have succeeded it, Coady has been a revelation.
His work rate and fitness levels have been incredible and in every game over the last month he seems to have covered every blade of grass. He has been driving the ball on in the opposition’s half whilst also ensuring that he is well placed to break up the opposition play and start another wave of attacking football. His passing has been exemplary and his preference to choose the simple ball rather than a ‘Hollywood’ pass is a breath of fresh air. Far too many young players these days will look for a 40 yard diagonal pass before looking for a 10 yard ball. The same can’t be said for Coady and I think this shows what a level-headed and grounded young man he is. One of the most impressive attributes that Conor has displayed in recent weeks is his willingness to break into the box and chip in with a few goals. I will be honest and say that I didn’t think he had this in his game but in recent weeks he has proved me wrong.
All in all, Coady’s loan spell with the Blades has been a success to date and if he continues to progress in the same way as he has in the last month we will have a fantastic player on our hands for the remaining fixtures of this season. It is clear to see in the way he plays that he has moulded his game on Steven Gerrard. I’m not going to say he will go on to hit the heights of the current Liverpool and England captain but he certainly has all the attributes to succeed in the game. I hope he continues to improve and become a star of the future for club and country and I’m sure his time in Sheffield will contribute greatly to his development as a footballer and a man.