Sheffield United conduct a major investigation into their failings this season

Paul Heckingbottom says a behind closed doors investigation has identified the strategic mistakes which contributed to Sheffield United’s relegation from the Premier League, but is refusing to divulge the exact details of its findings.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 6:00 am

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s visit to Tottenham Hotspur and nearly as fortnight after United’s fate was confirmed, Heckingbottom revealed senior figures at the club recently completed an inquest into a campaign which has seen it lose not only 26 of its last 33 top-flight outings but also two-time promotion winning manager Chris Wilder

Having completed spells in charge of Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian before joining United - initially to coach their under-23’s - Heckingbottom was invited to join the working party which is also thought to have included owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his footballing advisor Jan van Winckel.

“Lessons will be learned and have been learned,” Heckingbottom told The Star. “It would be tough for me to answer because they were private conversations. If I’m having a private conversation with someone, I wouldn’t be too happy if then it found its way into the public domain.

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Paul Heckingbottom has been part of the review: Darren Staples/ Sportimage

“I’m not going to answer theoretically. But certain things have been looked at and brought up.”

Although injuries have undoubtedly affected United’s performance levels - compounding the ban on spectators during the Covid-19 pandemic - a number of avoidable issues have also combined to leave them preparing for the trip to London 17 points adrift of safety with only five matches remaining. They include politicking, a lack of consensus behind the scenes about how and where to best strengthen the squad and distrust between the boot room and the boardroom.

Recently identifying Norwich City as an example for United to follow when they look to bounce back at the first attempt, Heckingbottom’s experiences at Elland Road and Easter Road have taught him those are seldom conducive to success.

“We’ve talked about what needs to be put in place and what needs to happen,” Heckingbottom, who was placed in caretaker charge last month, said. “There has to be things in place but it’s no good just talking about them and recognising that. What has to happen now is that we go out there and actually make them happen.”

H.R.H Prince Abdullah bin Mosa'ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud