Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom reveals how Covid-19 hampered plans to integrate more U23 stars this season

Paul Heckingbottom, Sheffield United’s temporary manager, has opened up about the difficulties of working in his day job as U23s coach in a coronavirus pandemic.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 12:00 pm

With professional football only allowed to continue during the lockdown under strict guidelines, Covid-19 ‘bubbles’ were created at United’s Shirecliffe training ground – effectively separating the club’s senior squad from their U23s.

Some players have made the switch – a number of younger players have entered the first-team bubble, while seniors including Lys Mousset and Max Lowe have played for the U23 side in recent weeks – but Heckingbottom admits that the situation made life more difficult, before his ascension to the first-team post after Chris Wilder’s departure earlier this month.

“We've had a difficulty with Covid,” Heckingbottom admitted.

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“When Chris got me in, the role as I saw it and how we wanted the working relationship to be, we haven't been able to produce that this season, simply because of the restrictions.

“We'd have been a lot closer, in each other's office all the time constantly discussing games and players.

“Most of our conversations have either been through a window or over the phone, so it's been tougher for the players to get that exposure from that respect.

Paul Heckingbottom talks to Sheffield United's players during a training session at Shirecliffe: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“But it doesn't mean we can't do it and while we've had players in the academy, we've worked really hard with them and I've been pleased with the work we've been able to do with them.

“There's been some real good work going off with them.”

That work has reflected in the results, with United’s U18s beating city rivals Wednesday yesterday to follow the U23s’ derby win last week.