Sheffield United boss makes takeover admission as he reveals biggest source of pride

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Paul Heckingbottom has spoken of his pride at how Sheffield United’s staff and players have not allowed the ongoing Bramall Lane takeover saga to become a distraction from their push for the Premier League.

United have established themselves as odds-on favourites to secure automatic promotion and return to the top-flight after moving five points clear of third-placed Luton Town, with a game in hand, as the season approaches its final straight.

The on-field success has come against a remarkable backdrop of off-field turmoil, with well-publicised financial issues resulting in a transfer embargo which remains in place. Stephen Bettis, the Blades’ chief executive, was forced to deny reports that the club was on the brink of administration earlier this year, while the English Football League are still carefully scrutinising Dozy Mmobuosi’s proposed takeover months after a deal was struck with current owner Prince Abdullah.

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Heckingbottom has been keen to ensure that full focus remains on matters within his control, but it has been a seismic effort from all concerned to ensure that off-field matters have not distracted from the task in hand.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s home clash against Cardiff City, which could see United take another big step towards promotion from the Sky Bet Championship with victory at Bramall Lane, Heckingbottom said: “As a team and staff, we speak a lot around having no excuses in terms of how we perform, but we’ve had to live that this season – it's been about us and not getting distracted.

“I’m unbelievably proud of the players and the staff – it’s not just the 11 players on the pitch at any one time, it’s how we prepare from a Monday to a Friday – and that’s every player and every staff member. It’s been important that we have had that togetherness throughout the season.

Paul Heckingbottom, the manager of Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / SportimagePaul Heckingbottom, the manager of Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Paul Heckingbottom, the manager of Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“The potential takeover is talked about all the time. If we’re not careful it could become a distraction. There have been times it’s impacted on our preparation and performance – we can’t get away from that.

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“We know the situation we’re in. But by not pretending it’s not there, we’ve tried to hit it face-on and make sure that if it has been a hinderance for us, and our preparation or our players individually, that we’ve talked it through and not let it affect how we perform.

“Because ultimately if we do, we’re all damaged. None of us are going to achieve what we want to achieve. That’s why I’m proud of how everyone’s behaved and performed. We’re doing our bit for the team.

“Our job is to prepare properly, try and win games. Regardless, under what conditions or what kind of adversity. And we’ve been able to do that. That’s what I’m most proud of this season.”

After Cardiff, United host Bristol City in another home clash in midweek before travelling to Wembley for their FA Cup semi-final against competition favourites Manchester City. The Blades then round off their regular-season home schedule by hosting West Bromwich Albion and Preston North End, before travelling to Huddersfield Town and then Birmingham City on the final day of the campaign.

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