Sheffield United: Coaching staff make big gesture ahead of final promotion push

Sheffield United’s coaching staff, including manager Paul Heckingbottom, will not be taking any time off during the international break as part of a plan designed to ensure their squad is equipped to reach the Championship play-offs.

Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 5:00 am

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Despite ordering a number of Bramall Lane’s leading names to “get away” and “forget” all about football until later this week, Heckingbottom has confirmed he will be working “every single day” between now and next month’s visit to Stoke City.

Stuart McCall, the 44-year-old’s assistant, and head of player development Jack Lester also volunteered to remain at the club’s training complex in order to fine-tune its strategy for the remainder of the campaign.

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With eight matches of the regular season remaining, United are fifth in the table and on course to earn a shot at a return to the Premier League despite suffering a glut of injuries in recent months.

“The first few days, they were ‘their’ days,” Heckingbottom explained, confirming he ordered those members of his starting eleven not selected by their countries to “recharge” and “reset”. “There’s won’t be any time off for the staff, though. We’ll still be coming in, and overseeing all of the things that need to be done and making sure we are ready to go again.

“The lads, they need to rest mentally as well as physically. That’s vitally important.

“Then it’s back into a normal week, in terms of the schedule anyway, because there is never as much time to get ready as people think. We have players away and we only get them back a few days before (travelling to City).”

Stuart McCall, Paul Heckinbottom and Jack Lester at the Randox Academy, Sheffield United's training complex: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

As well as analysing opponents and establishing tactics, Heckingbottom, together with McCall and Lester, will also be liaising with United’s medical department as they attempt to address the fitness issues which have robbed them of some of the side’s most influential performers in recent weeks.

Chris Basham has been absent since the middle of last month after being diagnosed with a damaged medial ligament while Ben Davies is reportedly suffering from a calf complaint. Charlie Goode, on loan from Brentford, has returned to London for treatment to alleviate a cartilage complaint, although United remain in daily contact with their counterparts in the capital.

Billy Sharp is a doubt for the meeting with City, after limping-out of Saturday’s win over Barnsley with a hamstring injury.

Enda Stevens and Oli MBurnie were only declared available for selection on the eve of that game. But, together with George Baldock, they were ordered to complete mini-conditioning programmes ahead of the trip to Staffordshire. Stevens took part in an under-23’s game against Colchester on Tuesday afternoon, although Baldock and McBurnie were both excused.

Sheffield United are fifth with eight games of the season remaining: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

“George and Enda will be coming in,” Heckingbottom said. “There won’t be any time off for them because they’re focusing on getting ready after spending longer out. They’ll be here and getting themselves properly sorted, and they know they’ll benefit from that.”

"The rest,” Heckingbottom added, “I don’t want them to be coming in or even hearing from them for a bit.”