Sheffield United boss hails "brave" star ahead of Burnley reunion - but wants more

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Paul Heckingbottom has paid a glowing tribute to Oliver Norwood as the influential Sheffield United midfielder prepares to face his boyhood club on Saturday afternoon.

Norwood grew up a stone’s throw from Burnley’s Turf Moor stadium and was a season-ticket holder as a youngster, but will be looking to put a dent in his hometown side’s promotion bid when they visit Bramall Lane on Saturday lunchtime.

Vincent Kompany’s men travel to South Yorkshire top of the Championship table, with the Blades in third, and United chief Heckingbottom said: “Ollie's been great this season and was great last. Touch wood, he's always available and training, he's really robust like that. He looks after himself and he knows what his role is but like everyone, we always want more.

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“We want him to be better at certain things and want him to keep pushing and pushing. But we wanted to be clear, and Ollie's grasped this, what his attributes are and what he is better at than everyone else and how he benefits the team. How he makes us tick. We want people to be brave and take the ball, that's right up his street.

“In terms of mentality and winning, bravery is about stepping up when times are tough and that's in your own way. Is it the extra run or always showing for the ball? Being demanding of your teammates. If you've made a mistake, quickly go again.

“They're all the things that help the team and the biggest thing Ollie does in terms of that would be that continually being brave and looking to get on the ball. And that's how he helps us.”

Paul Heckingbottom, the manager of Sheffield United: Ashley Crowden / SportimagePaul Heckingbottom, the manager of Sheffield United: Ashley Crowden / Sportimage
Paul Heckingbottom, the manager of Sheffield United: Ashley Crowden / Sportimage

Heckingbottom, a boyhood Barnsley fan, faced the Reds as both a player and a manager and he admits that any game against a side someone cheered as a child always feel different in the build up. “I remember some of my mates giving me stick from the stands!” the Blades boss grinned.

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“It feels different in the build-up. But not when the whistle goes.

“There’s always someone with some sort of connection to the opposition every week. It’s Ollie's boyhood club and lots of his family are season-ticket holders there. But when the whistle goes, it's a game of football.”

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