Newcastle United humiliation could be a turning point in Sheffield United’s season after big reminder
Blades fall to bottom of table after Newcastle battering
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Paul Heckingbottom believes Sheffield United can use the chastening experience of Sunday’s battering at the hands of Newcastle United to aid their season, if they address it in the right manner. The Blades dropped to the foot of the Premier League table on goal difference after an 8-0 tousing from Eddie Howe’s Magpies at Bramall Lane.
It was undoubtedly the lowest point of Heckingbottom’s reign and in recent memory, with United’s biggest margin of defeat before that game being one goal. Eight days earlier the Blades led at Spurs going into injury time but looked a shell of that side against Howe’s men, who ran riot with eight different scorers to make a mockery of questions of how they would turn up after their midweek Champions League exploits.
Heckingbottom had never been on the end of a similar scoreline either as a player or a manager but has some reference points in the form of Bournemouth and Southampton. The Cherries were beaten 9-0 by Liverpool last season, but recovered to avoid relegation, while Southampton have suffered the same scoreline on two occasions in recent seasons before they dropped to the Championship at the end of the last campaign. What matters now, ahead of this weekend’s trip to West Ham, is how United bounce back from their own humiliation.
“It can happen,” said Heckingbottom with the pain of defeat still raw. “I remember Bournemouth and Southampton going on and performing well, so only if you learn from it that it can be a positive and a one-off fluke. We prepared for days like this and the opposite, when our best is sometimes not good enough, and that's sometimes harder to deal with. This game won't define our season and if we use it in the right way, it might build it. But it's important we address it in the right way.”
Heckingbottom was calm and composed in front of the cameras - one member of the national media remarked afterwards that it would have been difficult for an untrained eye to detect which manager had won 8-0 and which had lost - but there were some raised voices and tempers in the dressing room afterwards. Others were quiet, trying to process the magnitude of what had just happened.
“Listen, we're trying to speed up learning,” Heckingbottom added. “We're trying to speed up everything, so it's important the senior boys step up. They understand what we're trying to do. We've had big change-around in the summer, so we have to use that second half to make sure that everyone who's new, who's trying to get into the team or is in the team but is new, understand that that's not us and that's now how we play. You never get a harsher lesson than dropping below your standards against a top side because that's what can happen.
“Everyone's been in the building long enough now to be judged to the same standards. We have been bedding people in and people still need to settle, but we still need results and we need to compete. Whilst we've done work for the future of the club, we still want to compete. It's in all of us, it's how we're born. We don't turn up to throw a game away. Everyone will be judged from the same standards from now on and if there are only 15 at the levels then there'll only be 15 picked.”