Sheffield United: Manager's surprising response when probed on injuries and his toughest week yet

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Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United manager, has revealed his greatest wish after seeing a spate of injuries disrupt the Championship leaders’ start to the campaign.
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Sheffield United: Boss reveals why this week could be a pivotal moment in his te...

A number of key performers, including Anel Ahmedhodzic, John Fleck, Billy Sharp and Ciaran Clark, have either missed all or some of the season so far after being struck down by fitness issues.

Despite the disruption caused by the loss of so many big names and a dip in form since the international break, United are preparing for Saturday’s visit of Blackpool on top of the table.

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With Sharp and Ben Osborn recently making their respective returns to action and Oli McBurnie available for selection again following a one match ban, Heckingbottom hopes he will soon have a much more desirable issue address rather than the ones he was grappling with ahead of last weekend’s defeat by Stoke City; a match around a dozen members of his squad were forced to sit out.

“I want the headache of speaking to good players and telling them that I’m not going with them on a particular day,” Heckingbottom said. “I want to be having to sit down with them and explain why they’re not going to be involved in a certain game. Because when we get everyone back, when people start coming back in, that’s what is going to have to happen.”

Oli McBurnie could return to action for Sheffield United this weekend: Simon Bellis / SportimageOli McBurnie could return to action for Sheffield United this weekend: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Oli McBurnie could return to action for Sheffield United this weekend: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Heckingbottom does face one welcome dilemma ahead of the meeting with Michael Appleton’s side, as McBurnie hopes to be parachuted straight back into the starting eleven after serving his suspension at the bet365 Stadium. Having scored five goals in seven outings before receiving his fifth caution since August during the aftermath of United’s loss to Queens Park Rangers four days earlier, the striker should be a shoe-in to spearhead Heckingbottom’s frontline. However, Rhian Brewster was on target for the first time in a competitive fixture since recovering from hamstring surgery, cancelling-out Ben Wilmot’s opener before Phil Jagielka and Liam Delap also netted for the hosts.

McBurnie and Brewster both featured when United beat Preston North End before the pause in the domestic programme, with Iliman Ndiaye deployed in a deeper lying role than usual, It is a ploy Heckingbottom could use again, although that would almost certainly necessitate dropping James McAtee to the bench.

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Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom (right): Andrew Yates / SportimageSheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom (right): Andrew Yates / Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom (right): Andrew Yates / Sportimage

Heckingbottom admitted he is “sick” of talking about injuries ahead of the trip to Staffordshire, even before it emerged Jayden Bogle, Sander Berge and George Baldock had been forced to withdraw from the game.

But, attempting to put a positive spin on recent events at Bramall Lane, he said: “What this period has shown us, and the lads themselves, is that if we want to achieve what we want to achieve then we’re going to need everyone. All of the players are going to have a role to play. It tells the good players, who hopefully might soon find themselves getting left out, that they’re going to come back in at some point and that it really is all about the group as a whole.”