DANNY Higginbotham has challenged his Sheffield United colleagues to embrace the weight of expectation being placed upon their shoulders and savour the tension of a League One promotion bid, writes James Shield.
The defender, who yesterday claimed Danny Wilson’s side have the potential to eclipse the achievements of his former club Stoke, was speaking ahead of tonight’s encounter with Coventry City which could have a crucial bearing on both team’s seasons.
“There is pressure but we should use it as a positive,” Higginbotham said. “People come here and the fact they go all out actually means they are actually paying us respect.
“If you ask most players in this division would they like to play for Sheffield United then I think the answer would, in the vast majority of cases, be ‘yes,’
“So we are the fortunate ones. We’re the ones fortunate enough to be here and we should just soak that up.”
United are sixth - two places and four points ahead of the visitors - after winning three of their last 10 outings in the competition.
Having represented the likes of Sunderland and Derby County since graduating from Manchester United’s youth system, Higginbotham is not the easiest player to impress.
But, confirming he would like to stay at Bramall Lane beyond the duration of his short-term contract, the 34-year-old added: “The potential here is massive. If you are in League One and still drawing in 20,000 crowds then that tells you everything you need to know.
“In a sense, I think Sheffield United are bigger than Stoke because I can remember being in the Championship there and we were pulling in crowds of 13 and 14 thousand which was still great but not as big as here.
“The thing is, though, supporters and coaching staff can only do so much. When we cross the white line it’s only us, the players, who can make it happen.
“It’s all very well talking about potential. It’s up to us to make sure we fulfil it.”
To achieve that objective, United, Higginbotham insisted, must rediscover the ruthless streak which briefly saw them wrestle top spot from Tranmere Rovers towards the end of last year.
“If we can win the battle then the technical ability we have will shine through,” he said. “So that’s the key; earning the right to play.
“If we win the battle first, get in the opposition’s faces, then our quality should tell”
Higginbotham, United’s first signing of last month’s transfer window, added: “I’ve only been here a short period of time but I’m already confident in the team’s ability so we’ve just got to kill teams off.”