Sheffield United: 'Don't view your new manager as a soft touch' Bramall Lane's first team squad are warned

Sheffield United’s players have been warned manager Paul Heckingbottom and his staff still are prepared to be ruthless, despite outlining plans to improve the mood around the Championship club’s training complex.

Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 5:00 am

Jack Lester, who along with Stuart McCall was appointed to Heckingbottom’s coaching team last week, acknowledged the trio don’t want training to become a chore during his first round of interviews since becoming head of player development.

The former United striker also spoke about the importance of ensuring United’s football reflects the personality of the city when he met journalists yesterday, with Heckingbottom’s predecessor Slavisa Jokanovic privately complaining about a lack of support from above as he struggled to implement the methods which had helped him achieve great success at the likes of Partizan Belgrade, Watford and Fulham.

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David McGoldrick during a training session with Sheffield United: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

With those accusations being refuted by members of United’s hierarchy during Heckingbottom’s official unveiling, Lester told The Star that a change of atmosphere behind the scenes was one of the new regime’s top priorities.

But he insisted anyone interpreting that as a sign they are unwilling to indulge under-performing professionals would be guilty of making a grave mistake, saying: “We are trying to create an environment where it’s enjoyable of course. You’ve got to enjoy your football and you’ve got to enjoy your work because, when you do, it’s amazing how much more you tend to win.

“But that isn’t giving players everything they want. Far from it.

“Those who want to work, well they’ll come with us. Those who don’t, well Paul has already admitted there might be some who fall by the wayside.”

Stuart McCall, Paul Heckinbottom and Jack Lester at Sheffiueld United training complex: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Having beaten Reading 1-0 in their final outing under Jokanovic, United climbed to 13th in the Championship table after beating Bristol City last weekend. Heckingbottom, who completed a spell as caretaker manager following Chris Wilder’s departure earlier this year, oversees his second match in permanent charge at Cardiff City on Saturday.

“To begin with, today’s training session was a bit slow for our liking,” Lester said. “But then, as we went along, the five-a-sides were getting really tasty and they were having a ‘go’ at each other. I thought ‘great, that’s exactly what you want to see.’ Because the best performers and the best sportspeople tend to be ultra-competitive.”

Slavisa Jokanovic was sacked last week: David Klein / Sportimage