Accusations that Sheffield United's players are 'going through the motions' have been addressed

Sheffield United’s players have been defended amid accusations some of them are guilty of simply going through the motions as the club edges closer to seeing its relegation from the Premier League confirmed.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 5:15 pm

United are preparing for this weekend’s game against Arsenal at the bottom of the table and 15 points adrift of safety with only eight matches of the season remaining following a miserable campaign at Bramall Lane.

Many United supporters took to social media to express anger at their team’s performance during Saturday’s derby against Leeds, with John Lundstram in particular singled out for criticism after refusing to sign a contract extension.

The midfielder has suffered a dramatic downturn in form since first rejecting their offer of a new deal, with Sander Berge’s arrival for a then record £22m fee from Genk also appearing to have a detrimental effect upon both his displays and demeanor.

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But Paul Heckingbottom, who was installed as caretaker manager when Chris Wilder parted company with United last month, is convinced every member of his squad is pulling their weight, saying: “They embrace the challenge. The players will fight.

“They are proud and you have to be that way.. They didn’t get to where they are as footballers without doing that or being that.”

Lundstram is by no means the only United player to fall short of his usual standards, with only David McGoldrick, George Baldock and Chris Basham, before he was ruled-out by injury, achieving any consistency. Despite making an indifferent start to his second spell in South Yorkshire, goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale has excelled of late, with only his contribution preventing United from conceding more than seven goals during their last two top-flight outings - a 5-0 defeat at Leicester City preceding their 2-0 reverse at Elland Road.

Hamstrung by the same selection issues which have plagued United since September’s return to action, Heckingbottom believes they have no other choice but to persevere and try to grind out a result when Mikel Arteta’s men make the journey north.

Sheffield United's players are still fighting, caretaker manager Paul Heckingbottom insists: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“That’s all we can demand of them,” he said. “Then, they just need the luck of the ball or something dropping.”

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Paul Heckingbottom and Jason Tindall are in temporary charge of Sheffield United: Andrew Yates/Sportimage
John Lundstram has been criticised by some Sheffield United supporters: Simon Bellis/Sportimage