Sheffield United: Defender is rated as the best in the Championship at doing this

Sheffield United’s John Egan has been named as one of the most effective centre-halves in the Championship by Europe's most respected footballing think tank.

Friday, 22nd April 2022, 11:15 am

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Researchers at the International Centre for Sports Studies declared the Republic of Ireland international as the division’s best ‘Air Blocker Filter Man’ - a category, used by experts analysing technical proficiency, to describe players who dominate in the air and are also exceptional in “recovery” positions.

Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool, Real Madrid’s Carlos Casemiro and Francesco Acerbi of Lazio topped the rankings in the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A respectively while Paris St Germain’s Marquinhos Aoas was France’s number one in this particular category.

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“He’s been good,” United manager Paul Heckingbottom told The Star. “He’s had some really big games.

“I speak with John all the time, about what I want from him on and off the pitch.”

Egan is expected to make his 53rd appearance of the campaign for either club and country when Cardiff City visit South Yorkshire tomorrow. Sixth in the table with only three matches remaining on their regular season schedule, the fixture is of critical importance to United’s play-off hopes.

Although Henry Mauriss’ proposed takeover, which would see him replace HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as United’s sole owner, is dominating the news agenda at Bramall Lane, Heckingbottom is attempting to ensure the focus remains solely on football. It is a battle he knows he is unlikely to win but one which, the 44-year-old and his coaching staff privately insist, will exert even greater influence over United’s immediate future than events in the boardroom. Mauriss, an American billionaire who previously expressed an interest in purchasing Newcastle, has already agreed a price with the Saudi Arabian and his associates.

Sheffield United defender John Egan (left) has been hailed by researchers at the CIES: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

Egan, aged 29, has grown into one of the most authoritative members of United’s squad since arriving from Brentford in 2018; winning promotion from the Championship under Heckingbottom’s predecessor Chris Wilder and leading them to ninth in the top-flight before last term’s relegation.

“He’s got the experience at the highest level and I’m pleased to see him develop that personality,” Heckingbottom said.

Paul Heckingbottom is delighted with John Egan's contribution to Sheffield United's season both on and off the pitch: Darren Staples / Sportimage