Sheffield United defender John Egan has given an insight into his unique role at Sheffield United.
Egan is the pivot of a three-man central defence that impressed many in the Premier League last season.
The now famous overlapping centre-back system Chris Wilder has introduced at the Blades only works because everyone involved is in sync.
Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell are given licence to go forward on the flanks – but that can only happen because of Egan’s discipline in the middle.
“The boys tear off on their overlaps and I’m usually hoarse, screaming at one of them to come back and mind the house in case there’s a counter-attack,” the Republic of Ireland international jokes with Sky Sports.
“It’s funny, really. I can see the whole pitch so I have to put the reins on sometimes. But it’s a good understanding we have and it’s brilliant to be part of such a unique system.
“You have to be a communicator in my role. You have to organise when you have centre-backs bombing on like wingers.”
Why John Egan is so important to Sheffield United
Only three teams conceded fewer than United last term as they finished ninth in their first top flight campaign in 12 years. Those sides finished in the top three places in the table.
Egan’s importance to that was shown in the two league games the 27-year-old missed. By pure coincidence they were both against Manchester United and over the two fixtures the Blades conceded six goals. Overall in the league in 2019/20 they only let in 39.
It may sound obvious, but Egan clearly loves defending and also the responsibility he has been given at Bramall Lane.
“Defending is an art. Teams who keep the most clean sheets usually win leagues. The tighter you can be as a unit, as a team, the better the chances of winning the game,” the Irishman continues.
“You need to be good on the ball at the top level, that’s certain, but you have to keep the ball out of the net too. In my opinion, there’s a fine line.
“I think about (Virgil) Van Dijk – he wins all sorts of accolades but he defends first. For me, he’s brought the art of defending back the other way.
“That’s your number one job, in my opinion. It was certainly something we had in our brains last year – defend for your lives.”
Egan is here to stay
It was a big positive for the South Yorkshire club in August when Egan signed a new four-year contract. Since arriving from Brentford a little over two years ago in a £4.1m transfer (Yorkshire Post) the defender has been hugely influential.
In fact, Egan is probably one of the most irreplaceable in the starting XI. Phil Jagielka filled in during those aforementioned games with Man United and is a very capable deputy.
Yet at 38-years-old, Jagielka’s best years are behind him. Egan’s are hopefully only just beginning.