Enda Stevens is one Sheffield United player who seems to have come in for some undeserved criticism as we continue to struggle.
The Ireland star, a regular for Chris Wilder in the journey from League One football to the Premier League, has proved an outstanding addition since joining following our return to the second tier.
Stevens has grasped his chance as a Premier League footballer, too. He appeared in all 38 games last term, scoring twice and laying on four more as the Blades finished an impressive ninth place.
However, for one reason or another, Stevens seems to have been the subject of some harsh words on social media platforms this term.
Granted, following the return in the summer, he wasn’t quite at the levels he was prior. But who in red and white was? Nearly every player in the first XI struggled for a bit, with Stevens’ error at Newcastle putting him into the firing line that bit more.
Into this season, Stevens has been used both at wing-back and as centre-back, as Wilder looks to address the issue of losing Jack O’Connell.
Furthermore, he’s not really had chance to get into a flow due to those positional changes, not to mention the amount of games he’s already played thanks to the (rather pointless) international breaks.
Finally, given the team in general is struggling, Stevens can hardly expect to be standing out like he did last term. The whole squad lacks confidence at the moment and the Irishman is not exempt from that.
But rather than criticising one of our best left-backs ever (yes, ever), we should be rallying behind him and not taking for granted just how good Enda Stevens has been and still is.
By Chris Wilder’s own admission this week, Max Lowe is probably starting games in the Premier League too early as a wing-back. Without sounding harsh, he looks lost and if he’s not careful, could quickly find himself sinking without a trace.
But that only highlights just how important Stevens is in that wing-back role. It’s easy to forget how difficult it is to play that role. And defensively, Stevens isn’t stacking up too badly.
He’s made 28 clearances. John Egan and Chris Basham, often lauded, sit on 33 and 34 respectively. Interestingly, Stevens also sits level with Basham in tackles made with 23. Both in the top ten in the PL stats tables. (PL Official)
Of course, stats can be read into anyway you want and we are a team on the back foot at the minute, so maybe those metrics are expected to be high.
But, regardless, Enda Stevens deserves respect. A class act, reliably, and equally adept in attack and defence, what more do we really want as Blades fans?
One thing is for certain. And that’s that Sheffield United are a much better team with Enda Stevens at his free-flowing best at left wing-back.