Sheffield United: 'Intelligent' Reda Khadra convinced staff that brave tactical choice was the right call

Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United manager, shed light on the thinking behind the decision to deploy Reda Khadra at wing-back against Birmingham City after insisting the German’s ability to grasp what was required of him confirms he is an intelligent as well as talented footballer.
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With injury ruling Anel Ahmedhodzic out of the contest and a clutch of other defenders also undergoing treatment for injuries, Khadra was tasked with the responsibility of bolstering the Championship leaders’ rearguard when Rhys Norrington-Davies stepped across to cover for the Bosnia and Herzegovina international.

Speaking after the 1-1 draw, Heckingbottom admitted he contemplated the idea of changing formation before deciding not to abandon the strategy which has served United well so far this term. But having been called-up by his country during the international break, Khadra spent only one training session trying to master his new role; forcing the 21-year-old to spend a long day in the media suite at the club’s Randox Health Academy on the eve of the match.

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“We gave it some thought, changing the system,” Heckingbottom told The Star. “But we quickly decided that we weren’t going to go that way. Doing what we did, that ensured all of the other players were in their best positions.

“We thought we would see a lot of the ball. We actually thought Josh (Williams) might be up against him (for City) but it was Jordan Graham. We knew we could play higher up the pitch and so we told Reda to focus on going that way. If Jordan got in behind him, don’t worry about it. We’d let Rhys step across and try and take care of that. I thought Reda did well.”

Reda Khadra (second left) deputised at wing-back for Sheffield United against Birmingham City: Simon Bellis / SportimageReda Khadra (second left) deputised at wing-back for Sheffield United against Birmingham City: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Reda Khadra (second left) deputised at wing-back for Sheffield United against Birmingham City: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Signed on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion earlier this summer, Khadra was recruited to bolster United’s attacking options rather than strengthen a backline which enters Tuesday’s clash with Queens Park Rangers having conceded just one goal in its last five outings.

“We prepared a video for Reda, showing him what the match might look like and the situations he was going to face,” Heckingbottom continued. “He’s gone through it all and, full credit to him, he took everything on board. I think that tells you something about him, because he’s played quite a few different positions for us since coming here. He’s been at centre-forward and came on against Swansea not so long back doing something a little bit different as well.”

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Khadra, who stepped-off the bench to score a last minute winner in south Wales, could start again when Michael Beale’s side travel to Bramall Lane. However, Jayden Bogle replaced him during the closing stages against City after confirming his recovery from a knee problem.

“We know that Jayden is mentally and physically fine now,” said Heckingbottom, despite warning it would “greatly increase” the defender’s chance of a recurrence if he completed 90 minutes. “And fingers crossed, we’ve not picked anything else up. We’ve not had to take anyone off because of an injury, so that’s good for us to know.”