By his own calculations, around half of Paul Heckingbottom’s Sheffield United’s squad is in danger of missing Saturday’s game against Barnsley - with John Fleck and Oli McBurnie thought to be the only members of Bramall Lane’s walking wounded to have genuine chances of featuring.
So although he likes to be frank with supporters, the United manager has admitted to spreading disinformation about the exact nature of the complaints some of his players are receiving treatment for. And also when coaching staff expect them to return.
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“Sometimes, because we don’t want to give the opposition a heads-up or give a lift to the teams around us, we might just say something or put stuff out there (about injuries),” he told journalists before United’s draw with Blackpool. “I think most people out there will understand why.”
Heckingbottom’s defensive options are particularly thin on the ground ahead of United’s meeting with the club he represented as both a player and a manager ahead of his appointment in November. Chris Basham, Jayden Bogle, Charlie Goode and Enda Stevens are all ruled-out at present while George Baldock was scheduled to undergo another scan on his damaged knee earlier this week.
With United ninth in the table but only a point behind sixth-placed Queens Park Rangers, the absence of so many key performers is threatening to undermine their attempt to qualify for the postseason knockouts.
Midfielder Conor Hourihane and goalkeeper Adam Davies were Heckingbottom’s only experienced options on the bench during the visit to Bloomfield Road.