Sheffield United: Crafty tactics ready to be employed in push for the Premier League

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Sheffield United are ready to use subterfuge in order to improve their chances of returning to the Premier League.

Despite being portrayed as a straight-talking manager, particularly when discussing the challenges his squad faces as it battles for promotion, Paul Heckingbottom has admitted to being deliberately hazy during discussions about Bramall Lane’s casualty list.

Although United believe Oli McBurnie and Max Lowe are both progressing well in their respective fights for fitness - at least one has a chance of facing Stoke City this weekend - Heckingbottom made no apology for refusing to elaborate on the exact details of their conditioning, saying: “You know how vague I’m going to be about this kind of thing. I think everyone can understand why I’m like that and why it’s going to continue. To be honest, to be completely honest, I don’t want to give any of our opponents a heads up about what we might be doing and who with. I’d rather keep them guessing, wondering.”

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Speaking earlier this term, following a win at West Bromwich Albion, Heckingbottom told The Star how United’s coaching staff routinely trawl through opponents’ social media accounts in order to elicit information about their plans for matches against his side. After taking care to ensure United do not inadvertently let something slip about their own strategies and plans, Heckingbottom is equally careful about the information he makes public regarding medical issues.

Unbeaten in seven, United are second in the Championship table and nine points ahead of third placed Blackburn Rovers. City are 21 behind Heckingbottom’s men, after winning once in five outings. However, they condemned United to a rare defeat when the two clubs met in Staffordshire three months ago, with Ben Wilmot, Liam Delap and former United defender Phil Jagielka all on target during a 3-1 success.

“I don’t want to let another manager know if a certain individual is going to be out there or not,” Heckingbottom said. “We’ve got people who are close (to returning) and that’s good. We’ll see how they are, but we’ve got options to do things and the lads have shown already on numerous occasions.”