Sheffield United boss explains promotion “hunger” ahead of crunch West Brom clash

Blades are 90 minutes away from Premier League return after two years away

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Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United boss, has outlined the “hunger” that the Blades have to return to the Premier League ahead of Wednesday’s potentially-defining clash at home to West Bromwich Albion.

United go into the clash knowing they are 90 minutes away from promotion back to the top-flight after two years away. Their last stay in the Premier League began superbly, with a genuine tilt at Europe derailed by Covid-19 and empty grounds which led to their relegation in the second season.

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Saturday’s Wembley clash against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-finals has only whet United’s appetites further to test themselves against the best in the country on a weekly basis, with Heckingbottom admitting: “It’s like a little carrot dangling.”

“That’s what we want,” he added. “This occasion, this stadium whets the appetite ... any club would want this to become a regular thing. That opposition we want to become a regular thing.

“It’s in our hands, and the first step to achieving anything is three points. Then and only then will I look back on this season and take stock on what a spectacular season it has been. Because up until we get that, it’s not. It’s just one of promise. We’ve got a lot still to do.”

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Heckingbottom, too, will privately be keen for another crack at the Premier League after a difficult task saw him step into the breach after Chris Wilder left, with United well on the way to relegation. But there were some promising signs of improvement with a group bereft of belief and confidence, that bode well for the Blades’ prospects in the top-flight next season.

“We know how tough it is,” Heckingbottom said. “We know we’re capable but we know how tough it is and how fine the margins are. We’ve got a lot of players who’ve faced that calibre of player and been comfortable but likewise, we’ve also suffered at that level too.

“A lot of those players have been relegated and understand why. But there’s a real hunger there to have another crack at it. Then we’ve got a lot of younger players who are excited about getting to that level.”

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Heckingbottom praised United’s supporters for playing their part in the Wembley stands but admitted: “Now, I want a bigger party than that; something we can all celebrate together.

“If we do achieve it’s not just for me or the players, or the staff or the club. It’s for all the fans as well and it’d be good if everyone could be there at home and we can get the job done.”