Sheffield United: Has Paul Heckingbottom just provided a clue about former Nottingham Forest star Ben Osborn's contract status?

Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United manager, believes Ben Osborn’s footballing knowledge could prove an important weapon during the second half of the Championship season.

Friday, 14th January 2022, 3:32 pm

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s game against Derby County - the former Nottingham Forest midfielder’s hometown club - Heckingbottom admitted Osborn’s ability to “grasp whatever is asked of him” will help coaching staff plot a course through a congested and pivotal period in the fixture calendar.

Although he did not comment explicitly on Osborn’s contract status - like many players within Bramall Lane’s first team squad, the 27-year-old is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season - Heckingbottom’s comments suggest a new deal could be proposed if United’s ownership agrees.

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Paul Heckingbottom has the utmost respect for Sheffield United midfielder Ben Osborn: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

“One of Ozzy’s strengths is that, tactically, he just gets the game,” Heckingbottom said. “We all know he can play several different positions. There’s lots of people who can do that in football. But what not all of them can do is understand the tactics straight away. There’s an intelligence in that and Ozzy has got it.”

During an interview with The Star earlier this week, Osborn revealed he recently enrolled on a course to acquire a UEFA A coaching licence - crediting the sessions with giving him a different perspective on how his profession works.

Ben Osborn's contract Sheffield United expires this summer: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Having suffered a series of postponements over Christmas and New Year, Heckingbottom, who is isolating at home after testing positive for Covid-19, admitted Osborn’s versatility will prove beneficial for United as they prepare for the first of 11 matches they are set to contest between now and the end of next month.

“Ideally, we want him in an attacking position,” Heckingbottom said. “But we also want a smaller and leaner group with more quality, so versatile players are going to be a big part of that.”

“We’ve got a few of those,” added Heckingbottom. “Kyron (Gordon) and Rhys (Norrington-Davies) have shown they can do that too.

“Ozzy has played left back and we’d like to get him forward. But if he goes in an wing-back, he can also do that there – get forward – because that’s an attacking position.”