Sheffield United: Manager makes bold pledge to players and supporters, despite injury issues

With the margins for error in the race for play-off qualification uncomfortably thin, Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom is convinced only those teams who are prepared to take risks will secure a place in the end of season knockouts.

Friday, 25th February 2022, 9:00 am
Updated Friday, 25th February 2022, 10:28 am

Confirming he plans to persevere with his bold approach towards games, including tomorrow’s fixture at Millwall, Heckingbottom explained why it would be a mistake to adopt a more conservative strategy despite the selection issues threatening to engulf Bramall Lane.

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Missing a number of trusted performers, including Jayden Bogle, Enda Stevens and Chris Basham, United’s no-holds-barred courageous attitude paid off during Wednesday’s game against Blackburn Rovers when Ben Davies snatched a late winner following Charlie Goode’s sending-off.

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That result saw Heckingbottom’s men regain sixth position in the table; a point ahead of Middlesbrough and seven above their latest opponents, who are 12th.

“We will always gamble for a win,” Heckingbottom said. “If you draw three in a row, you still only get the same as if you win one and lose two. So we’ll keep on going for it. We’ll always be looking to keep our forward players on the pitch.”

Heckingbottom’s thinking has undoubtedly been influenced by the sight of United stretching their unbeaten run to nine following the victory over Rovers. Even more impressive, with Goode’s red card stretching his defensive options to the limit as Stevens continues his battle against injury, is the fact they travel to London searching for a sixth consecutive clean sheet.

Sheffield United travel to Millwall on the back of a long unbeaten run in the Championship: Isaac Parkin / Sportimage

Despite seeing goalkeeper Wes Foderingham save a penalty before Davies pounced, Heckingbottom cited Oli McBurnie’s contribution after stepping-off the bench during the closing stages of the meeting with Tony Mowbray’s team.

Praising the centre-forward’s ability to make a difference at both ends of the pitch, Heckingbottom could consider handing the Scotland international a more prominent role in the capital, adding: “Oli always wins his fair share of headers, more than his fair share in fact. Even if you go down (a man) down, like we did, you can still be a threat from set plays and such like.”

As well as helping to protect United’s own box, McBurnie was involved in the build-up to Davies’ strike.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom is convinced his team has what it takes: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“That shows why it’s never over until it’s over,” Heckingbottom added. “Why you should always keep going, no matter what.”