Sheffield United: 'Go out there and tear it up,' World Cup duo are told

Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United manager, believes Iliman Ndiaye and Adam Davies will return to Bramall Lane as much-improved players for their World Cup experience.
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With the tournament set to get underway tomorrow, when the host nation Qatar face Ecuador, the United duo travelled to the Middle East earlier this week after being selected by Senegal and Wales respectively.

Speaking after watching them help his side climb to second in the Championship table before the domestic fixture schedule was placed on hold until next month, Heckingbottom told The Star: “They’ll learn so much, they’ll come back to us, I’m sure, all the better for being out there. How can you not? They’ll be coming up against, working with and watching, some of the best players out there. They’ll be exposed to different ways of doing things, different tactics and cultures.

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“Representing your country at the World Cup, that’s the very pinnacle of the game. You can’t go any higher than that and because they’ll reap the benefits, that should mean we will as well.”

Ndiaye’s hopes of spearheading the reigning African champions’ attack appear to have been enhanced by news that Sadio Mane, the Bayern Munich forward, has been ruled out of Aliou Cisse’s plans by a hamstring complaint - the same injury which prevented Rhys Norrington-Davies from joining his United team mate Davies in the Welsh squad.

Senegal open their campaign with a match against Holland on Monday afternoon before Wales, who have been drawn in the same group as England, face the USA later that night.

Although Heckingbottom granted his men a week off following their win over Cardiff City after expressing concerns about the number of injuries they have suffered in recent months, he said: “As a club, we’re proud to see Iliman and Adam out there. We’re proud of them and we should be pleased for ourselves as well, because it shows we’ve got real quality here. If it hadn’t been for something really unfortunate happening (to Norrington-Davies) then we’d have had three lads out there as well.”

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With United academy graduates Aaron Ramsdale, Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker called-up by England and Ndiaye also progressing through the club’s development programme, Heckingbottom added: “I think that reflects so well on the work that’s going on here at youth level. It’s another thing we should be proud of and make a big deal about; the fact that Sheffield United are capable of producing people like this. The track record in that field here has always been excellent. People looking to start their careers should take notice of that and I’m sure they will.”

Iliman Ndiaye is preparing to represent Senegal at the World Cup in Qatar: Andrew Yates / SportimageIliman Ndiaye is preparing to represent Senegal at the World Cup in Qatar: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
Iliman Ndiaye is preparing to represent Senegal at the World Cup in Qatar: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

Heckingbottom’s words echo comments expressed by former United centre-forward David Kelly, who has spoken of the confidence he derived from representing the Republic of Ireland at Italia ‘90 and in USA ‘94.

Ndiaye is among a clutch of players Heckingbottom has recommended for new contracts but, as yet, no breakthrough has been made following preliminary talks between their representatives and United’s hierarchy.

“Obviously we all hope Iliman and Davo go out there and do really well,” Heckingbottom said. “They’ll be absolutely buzzing now and so they should be.”