Sheffield United: Boss doesn't mind these kind of bookings despite suspension risk

Despite seeing Wes Foderingham’s suspension place even greater pressure on their injury-hit squad, Sheffield United’s players have been granted permission to continue sticking up for their “mates” by manager Paul Heckingbottom.
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With Foderingham set to complete the three match ban he was handed after confronting Blackpool’s Shayne Lavery following United’s visit to West Bromwich Albion this weekend, Adam Davies is set to continue in goal at The Hawthorns before discovering if he has does enough to retain his place when Heckingbottom’s men face Bristol City on Tuesday.

With the likes of Jayden Bogle, Sander Berge, Max Lowe and Ciaran Clark all expected to miss the meeting with Albion, Heckingbottom admits he has reminded United’s squad about the importance of staying disciplined to avoid any unnecessary red or yellow cards.

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But despite launching a series of furious broadsides against the time-wasting and gamesmanship he believes is becoming a “serious issue” within modern football, Heckingbottom concedes there are some circumstances when cautions and confrontations are acceptable.

“You’ve got to get your mate out of there,” he said. “If your mate is in trouble, then you want to stick up for him. But we have talked about not getting needless bookings, because those don’t help anyone.”

Heckingbottom’s comments suggest he does not plan to punish Foderingham by extending his exile once the punishment he was handed by the FA is served. The former Rangers goalkeeper was dismissed following the final whistle of a feisty 3-3 draw with Mark Appleton’s men, who had finished the contest with only nine players on the pitch before Lavery was also sent-off for tangling with Foderingham.

“If it’s a booing that helps the team, that’s different,” Heckingbottom said. “If it’s players influencing things out there on the grass then forget about it, that happens. But if it’s avoidable, then we don’t need it.”

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom doesn't mind his players 'sticking up for their mates': Simon Bellis / SportimageSheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom doesn't mind his players 'sticking up for their mates': Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom doesn't mind his players 'sticking up for their mates': Simon Bellis / Sportimage
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By distinguishing between acceptable and unacceptable cautions, Heckingbottom is in danger of leaving himself open to being accused of double-standards as he pursues his fight to clean up the sport. It is not a charge he is prepared to accept, after insisting it is the responsibility of officials to ensure fixtures are properly policed rather than footballers and football coaches themselves.

“People going down,” he told reporters following Saturday’s match with Norwich City; a contest peppered with theatrics and confrontations between the players and the referee. “You need to write about it. I’m not going to talk about it. I want you to write about it.”

Both United and Blackpool were charged by the governing body following the melee which ended with Foderingham and Lavery wrestling on the pitch. Appeals were lodged with the FA but later dismissed, ruling Foderingham out of the clashes with Coventry City, Norwich and Albion.

“We did it on the basis of what was violent conduct,” Heckingbottom said, before Foderingham’s suspension was upheld. “We had no problem with Wes. The problem was probably that they (Foderingham) and Lavery ended up going to ground. But we accepted it and got on with it.”