Sheffield United: Lack of preparation time for Birmingham City match laid bare

Despite acknowledging his players were not at their best against Birmingham City, Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom was still full of praise for the focus they showed during today’s draw at Bramall Lane given the lack of preparation time beforehand.
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With a huge swathe of United’s squad on duty with their respective countries during the international break, Heckingbottom revealed only two senior players took part in one training session ahead of the meeting with John Eustace’s side.

Confirming that coaching staff had spent only an hour “actually on the grass” with the starting eleven they selected to face the visitors from St Andrews, the majority of United’s pre-match work revolved around video analysis.

Paul Heckingbottom, manager of Sheffield United, during the draw with Birmingham City: Simon Bellis / SportimagePaul Heckingbottom, manager of Sheffield United, during the draw with Birmingham City: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Paul Heckingbottom, manager of Sheffield United, during the draw with Birmingham City: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
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“I think the players deserve real credit for how they approached that game,” said Heckingbottom, admitting there had been “some tired legs” on display. “We’ve had a couple of hours with them. Actually not even that, probably just one, just 60 minutes actually on the grass.

“They’ve been looking at videos mainly and so all praise to them, to go out there and show the focus that they did. Full praise to all the lads.”

Exactly half of those Heckingbottom called upon were involved in either Nations League games or friendly fixtures during the break in the domestic schedule, including Greece’s George Baldock, Sander Berge of Norway and the Republic of Ireland’s John Egan.

Despite seeing City’s Troy Deeney cancel-out Oli McBurnie’s opener, United enter Tuesday’s clash with Queens Park Rangers on top of the Championship table - a point clear of second-placed Norwich City.

Reda Khadra played at wing-back against Birmingham City: Lexy Illsley / SportimageReda Khadra played at wing-back against Birmingham City: Lexy Illsley / Sportimage
Reda Khadra played at wing-back against Birmingham City: Lexy Illsley / Sportimage
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“I know there was a legginess out there,” Heckingbottom said. “But it didn’t feel like it.”