Sheffield United: Club told training pitch issue is causing problems ahead of Wigan Athletic trip

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Although he insists that conditions at Sheffield United’s training complex have not hampered his team’s preparations for Monday’s visit to Wigan Athletic, manager Paul Heckingbottom has warned the club’s failure to trigger a new undersoil heating system is impacting upon other aspects of its affairs.

United unveiled a new playing surface at the Randox Health Academy earlier this month, something Heckingbottom and his most recent predecessors Chris Wilder and Slavisa Jokanovic had all campaigned vociferously for. However, for reasons which can be guessed at but are yet to be explained, ground staff at the site are still waiting for permission to turn the pipework on despite the inclement weather which has engulfed South Yorkshire of late.

“The pitch is not our friend,” Heckingbottom told The Star. “That’s why we need this plugging in, gearing up. It’s not at the level we want.”

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Despite preparing for their trip to the DW Stadium second in the table, facilities at United’s day to day base lag way behind most other teams in the competition. This is a source of intense frustration for Heckingbottom although, unlike Wilder and Jokanovic, he has yet to make that fact public. Intriguingly, the situation last night prompted Heckingbottom to suggest that United’s first team players have not been handicapped ahead of the meeting with Athletic. “We’re used to it. So it’s not a big deal for us.” The same, however, can not be said for members of United’s development and youth programmes.

“We’ve never had it before so it’s not an issue in that regard,” Heckingbottom explained. “But it is for others, because they have to move around so we can find somewhere to work on. Some managers might not be bothered by that but I am, because it has a knock-on effect for the club as a whole. That’s something I want to look after as well, not just the first team but everything that goes on beneath it as well because it’s the future.”

Heckingbottom revealed during his latest media conference that United’s hierarchy have identified a date when the recently completed project will become fully operational, but declined to state exactly when that is.