Sheffield United boss reveals the most important thing in a play-off game

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom does not believe form during the season will have any bearing on who joins Fulham and AFC Bournemouth in the Premier League next season, describing the end-of-term knockouts as “a totally different ball game”

Monday, 9th May 2022, 3:00 pm
Updated Monday, 9th May 2022, 4:27 pm

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A veteran of numerous play-off campaigns both as a player and a coach, twice securing promotion via this route, Heckingbottom made the claim ahead of Saturday’s semi-final first leg against Nottingham Forest at Bramall Lane.

United set up the double-header with Steve Cooper’s side after winning their final three matches of the regular Championship programme, including a 4-0 victory over Fulham last weekend.

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Heckingbottom’s experiences with both Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday will prove invaluable as United attempt to regain top flight status at the first attempt.

“For me, this is a whole new tournament, a whole new ball game if you like,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like ‘normal’ football if you want to put it like that. The challenges are different, the pressures are different and the demands are different. It’s a cup competition with a huge prize at the end of it.”

“What you do,” he continued, “Is recognise all of that but approach it in the same calm and composed manner you would always do.”

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom is preparing his team to face Nottingham Forest: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.

Cooper, Heckingbottom’s counterpart in the east Midlands, has qualified for the play-offs in each of the past three years having twice guided Swansea City into the top six before taking charge of Forest.

United travel to the City Ground next Tuesday evening and Heckingbottom said: “Take them for what they are and embrace them. The games, they take care of themselves.”

Sheffield United are in the Championship play-offs: Simon Bellis / Sportimage