Sheffield United boss explains the thinking behind brave defensive call

Paul Heckingbottom has explained why Chris Basham was parachuted straight back into Sheffield United’s starting eleven after proving his fitness despite hailing Filip Uremovic’s performances after moving to England last month.

Friday, 29th April 2022, 7:31 am

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Basham is expected to make his third consecutive appearance since recovering from a knee injury when Heckingbottom’s side visit Queens Park Rangers tomorrow night.

Although the United manager admitted Uremovic has been “excellent” since joining on a short-term basis from Rubin Kazan, he told The Star Basham’s attacking qualities had prompted him to make a change once the 33-year-old became available for selection.

Chris Basham (centre) has returned to Sheffield United's starting eleven: David Klein / Sportimage

“How Bash plays that position, he gets forward more than anyone else,” Heckingbottom told The Star. “Whoever goes in there, that’s an important part of our system and how we want to go about things. It was a tough call. It really was. But that’s why we made the one that we did.”

Sixth in the table with only two matches of their regular season schedule remaining, the trip to west London could see United take a huge step towards qualifying for the Championship play-offs.Two points ahead of seventh-placed Middlesbrough and three in front of Blackburn Rovers and Millwall in eighth and ninth respectively, United are again set to choose Basham as one of their three centre-halves against Mark Warburton’s team.

But Uremovic, who was allowed to suspend his contract following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, remains an important part of Heckingbottom’s promotion masterplan.

“Filip is a fantastic defender,” he said, citing Uremovic’s international experience with Croatia. “He reads the runners so well and gets into exactly the right positions and areas.”

Filip Uremovic has impressed for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“The two of them, they’ve got totally different strengths and attributes,” Heckingbottom added. “That’s why I’ve been talking about the importance of getting the squad back up to strength after so many fitness problems, because lads like this give you that flexibility for different scenarios and situations.”

United are confident dellow defender George Baldock will face Rangers despite receiving treatment for a hamstring complaint sustained over the Bank Holiday period. Midfielder John Fleck should also feature as he “manages” his way through an injury of his own.

“John’s been doing it for a bit now,” Heckingbottom said. “It’s one of those things but he can do it.”

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Simon Bellis / Sportimage