Sheffield United: Interesting claim about why the Championship is so tight

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Given the consensus among supporters, journalists and pundits that the Championship is the most unpredictable division in the country, Sheffield United’s Paul Heckingbottom could be forgiven for wondering why his team’s dip in form following the international break has generated such intense scrutiny.
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After all, having warned at the beginning of the campaign that “some very tough moments” were inevitable, particularly in a competition where only eight points separate sixth place from 21st, United still enter tomorrow’s game against Norwich City fourth in the table.

Heckingbottom’s side, even given their utterly ridiculous catalogue of injuries, should be challenging. And, despite going five games without a win, they are. But as both he and his counterpart Dean Smith attempt to manage expectations as well as a squad of players, it remains the 44-year-old’s job to try and bring back some positive consistency to the South Yorkshire club’s results. In order to accelerate that process, having seen United begin the month on top of the rankings, Heckingbottom has been investigating why England’s second tier is painfully tight.

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“The margins are so fine, that’s what makes it different,” he said, having overseen United’s exit from the Premier League two seasons ago before taking charge permanently. “You look between the teams, now that we’re a few games in, and there’s definitely a change in the refereeing so people can bring even more physicality. Maybe Norwich feel that more than us right now, because there’s a lot more contact allowed to happen. I think that definitely helps to even things up as well.”

Heckingbottom’s comment about the difference in how matches are officiated between the two competitions could provide a clue about how United plan to try and gnaw away at the confidence of opponents who were relegated last term. Norwich were second not so long ago, and looking a pretty strong bet to make an immediate return to PL competition. Now, after losing all three of their last assignments, they make the journey north occupying the fourth and final play-off berth.

“It’s how this league is,” Heckingbottom said. “It’s like no other and you have to be prepared for that.”