Sheffield United: Boss weighs in on the big 'Stevens versus Norrington-Davies' debate

Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United manager, has revealed the decision whether Enda Stevens or Rhys Norrington-Davies start tomorrow’s match against AFC Bournemouth will be based on tactics after acknowledging they bring “a different dynamic” to the wing-back role.

Friday, 8th April 2022, 2:30 pm

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Stevens completed his first game since December after being recalled for the win over Queens Park Rangers three days ago, having recovered from a calf injury.

Norrington-Davies has performed well in the Republic of Ireland international’s absence, cementing his place both in Heckingbottom’s plans and also the Wales squad which is 90 minutes away from reaching the World Cup finals.

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Confirming Stevens could have returned for last weekend’s visit to Stoke City, Heckingbottom told The Star the 31-year-old’s availability means United can now make selection choices based on the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses or his own strategic plan.

“It was tactical, to bring Enda back,” Heckingbottom said, alluding to the fact he had identified a chink in Rangers’ armoury Stevens was better equipped to exploit. “We’ve had to focus on different things to try and win, when we’ve not had the options to change things from the bench.

“Now, there’s a different emphasis. Because Enda and Rhys bring a different dynamic with them. And that’s a really good thing to have.”

On Stevens’s qualities, Heckingbottom added: “He showed the qualities (versus Rangers) that we know he’s got. He’s a good footballer who gets the game and that’s what we’ve been alluding to throughout.

Wales' Rhys Norrington Davies has performed well for Sheffield United this season: David Klein / Sportimage

“We stuck with Rhys at Stoke and then brought Enda in. There’s a decision to make again.”

Nine years Stevens’ junior, Norrington-Davies prefers to defend rather than press forward; one of his older colleague’s particular fortes.

United finished the latest round of Championship fixtures in sixth, two points ahead of seventh placed Middlesbrough who have played one less. Bournemouth remained second despite losing to West Bromwich Albion 24 hours later.

“From a footballing perspective, we look at things like this all the time,” said Heckingbottom, who is expected to be without captain Billy Sharp as well as Jayden Bogle, Chris Basham, David McGoldrick and Rhian Brewster for the meeting with Scott Parker’s side. “I’d take everyone fit but you have to be ready because it’s all about the wins.”

Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United manager, has plenty to ponder ahead of his team's game afainst AFC Bournemouth: Cameron Smith/Getty Images
Enda Stevens is back in action for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage