Sheffield United manager pays tribute to two unsung heroes following FA Cup victory

As the dust began to settle on his team’s FA Cup victory over Blackburn Rovers, which means they will now meet Manchester City in the semi-finals at Wembley, Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom’s first thought wasn’t about the magnitude of that occasion or the one Bramall Lane had just witnessed.
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Instead, despite the celebrations surrounding him inside the home dressing room, the 45-year-old later admitted to being consumed by the thought of preparing his squad for next month’s visit to Norwich City - where they will attempt to take another step towards automatic promotion. It took assistant Stuart McCall and head of player development Jack Lester to snap Heckingbottom out of the moment; reminding him, although nothing has been achieved yet, of just how far the club has come under his stewardship.

“In all honesty, it’s good to have Macca and Jack around, reminding you about stuff like this, because you tend to get lost and wrapped up in other stuff,” Heckingbottom confessed. “I’m thinking about Norwich, what we’re doing during the international break that’s coming up, and how to get ready for all of that. Those two, like I say, are really good for me personally.”

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“To hear the comments from them, about this being a really big thing in terms of progression,” he continued, “That does make you pause. But everyone knows there’s a lot of work to do yet,

United were 16th in the table when Heckingbottom was appointed 16 months ago, struggling to adjust to life under his predecessor Slavisa Jokanovic and still suffering from the hangover of being relegated from the Premier League the season before. Now, despite being faced with a host of challenges off the pitch, they are second in the Championship table and getting ready to face Pep Guardiola’s men at the national stadium.

Speaking after a match which saw United twice come from behind against the visitors from Lancashire before Tommy Doyle’s added time winner, Heckingbottom said: “That progression, for the lads, is probably the thing that I’m most proud of. It’s hard. It takes bravery to play the way they play, taking risks and putting it all on the line. If we lose doing that, I’m genuinely not bothered. If I’m bored, that’s when I’m grumpy.”