Sheffield United are playing for pound notes as well as pride
Sheffield United’s caretaker manager Paul Heckingbottom has disputed the idea that pride is the only thing his squad has left to play for this season, reminding they can still avoid being relegated as the Premier League’s bottom club.
Despite being condemned to the drop nearly three weeks ago and suffering a heavy defeat at Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, United are preparing for Saturday’s visit of Crystal Palace nine points adrift of 19th placed West Bromwich Albion with only four games remaining.
Although the odds of them overhauling their rivals from the Midlands are slim, Heckingbottom reminded that the difference between finishing bottom and only one place higher could be as much as £1.8m.
And that, coupled with the fact performances could decide who stays and who leaves Bramall Lane over the summer, should act as an incentive to produce a much improved display against Roy Hodgson’s side following the 4-0 humiliation in north London.
“First and foremost, it should be about professional pride and representing the club and its supporters in the manner both deserve,” Heckingbottom said. “Any footballer, or anyone involved in the sport, will tell you that. It comes from within and a desire to always try and be your best, no matter what the situation or how difficult things get.
“But there’s another aspect to all of this as well. Obviously it goes without saying that we don’t want to go down in last place. From the club’s perspective as well, there’s quite a big money difference and, with everything that’s gone on, any extra you can bring in is always going to be welcome.”
Heckingbottom, whose name features on the five man shortlist from which United will select Chris Wilder’s permanent successor, was referring to the losses United and other English teams have accrued as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has spoken about his desire to see United become a sustainable and financially secure operation over the coming years, after arranging a mortgage to pay for the property rights he was obliged to purchase from his predecessor Kevin McCabe following a High Court victory over the Scarborough based property magnate two years ago.
“There’s always something to play for and we’ve still got plenty,” Heckingbottom said. “It always counts.
“There’s something to us to aim for and to chase. So as long as it’s possible, then we’ve got to go out there and try to do it, try to hunt them (West Brom) down. It brings something else to the table but, as I say, we’ve also got to go out there and do it for ourselves. You shouldn’t need any other incentive to do well than that.”
After facing Palace, United complete the 2020/21 schedule with clashes against Newcastle, Everton and Burnley. The latter could be the first time supporters are allowed back inside the ground since March last year.
“We want to represent what this football club stands for,” Heckingbottom said. “That’s important and, it’s important to remember, something this group has done so well over the years when it had an amazing amount of success.”