Sheffield United: New star Iliman Ndiaye thanks two well-known figures at Bramall Lane for their backing and support

Iliman Ndiaye has revealed how Slavisa Jokanovic’s presence helped convince him to stay at Bramall Lane after appearing destined to leave Sheffield United earlier this summer.

By James Shield
Monday, 13th September 2021, 7:13 am

The 21-year-old Frenchman scored two goals and created another on his full debut for the Championship club, as Peterborough were routed 6-2 in front of a near 28,000 strong crowd.

Ndiaye’s stunning performance, which is set to be rewarded with another start against Preston North End tomorrow, vindicated Jokanovic’s decision to parachute him straight into the team less than a week after he agreed a new long-term contract with United.

Despite impressing as a substitute during a visit to Leicester City in March - a month before his employer’s relegation from the Premier League was confirmed - Ndiaye was later frozen out of their plans having rejected a proposal put to him by the board of directors. Although the midfielder made it clear he wanted to remain in South Yorkshire, it was not until Jokanovic took charge in July that his career began to take off.

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Asked if the Serb’s appointment had been a factor behind his decision to put pen to paper until 2024, Ndiaye, who had been set to become a free agent in June, told The Star: “That’s one of the reasons why I decided to stay. The football we play, the style he wants, really suits me and ever since he’s been here he’s had belief in me.”

“I’ve always believed in myself,” Ndiaye continued. “My parents did, my family and my friends did and so did everyone at the club. But most importantly I always believed in myself. I just kept my head down and kept training. There were things going on behind the scenes but I didn’t really care about that.”

After ignoring pressure to continue overlooking Ndiaye, Jokanovic handed him his first taste of senior football since United’s trip to the east Midlands during their recent Carabao Cup tie against Derby County before naming the youngster in the starting eleven for last weekend’s fixture.

As well as thanking Jokanovic for his backing and support, Ndiaye also chose to reference the help he has received from coach Paul Heckingbottom. United’s development coach, the former Leeds and Hibernian chief had just been placed in caretaker charge when Ndiaye came on as a second-half substitute at the KP Stadium.

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 11: Iliman Ndiaye of Sheffield United celebrates after victory in the Sky Bet Championship match between Sheffield United and Peterborough United at Bramall Lane on September 11, 2021 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

“He (Heckingbottom) has changed me completely to be fair,” Ndiaye, who joined United from Boreham Wood two years ago, said. “Not in terms of skills but he’s done wonders.

“He brought discipline to my game and taught me all about the professional side of it.”

“Wherever I’ve been, I’ve always been a dribbler with skills and all that. It’s something I think I can bring to the team here but the main objective is to keep working hard, keep trying to score more goals and then the tricks can follow after.”

The victory over Peterborough was United’s first in the league this term, following a run of three defeats and two draws.

Paul Heckingbottom: Darren Staples / Sportimage

“Even though the results weren’t great, he relaxed us, kept trusting us and kept everyone really calm,” Ndiaye said, crediting Jokanovic’s influence behind the scenes. “The manager and the other players, they trust me a lot which feels great. We’ve worked really hard on the training ground.”

Sheffield, England, 11th September 2021. Slavisa Jokanovic manager of Sheffield Utd reacts during the Sky Bet Championship match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Picture credit should read: Simon Bellis / Sportimage