Sheffield United shouldn’t compromise their values despite big problem - Alan Biggs
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We all know the right answer to that and Sheffield United can hold their heads even higher by standing up for what they believe in.
Paul Heckingbottom suggested he was tempted to take a new stance of “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” in his frustration over the recent home defeat to Middlesbrough. And there was more evidence of his cause for complaint in last Saturday’s recovery win over Watford. A cynic might point out the result and say we didn’t hear anything about it on this occasion. Yet there was a classic example early on when Anel Ahmedhodzic picked up the softest of yellow cards (triggering a ban) after his opponent, Joao Pedro, under slight contact, went to ground. By contrast, Iliman Ndiaye was clearly roughed up during a mazy run, battled on with it as advantage was played and no retribution followed. Now, United are no angels. They’ll all “take one for the team” when left exposed. But the Blades boss has a point when he complains that his “ball-carriers” - Ndiaye, Sander Berge, James McAtee, Jayden Bogle - are not rewarded for trying to remain upright. My point would be: Don’t get them to change. Don’t defeat your own argument. You can do it the right way and still get promoted. That’s with or without the help of referees. And I’m pretty sure Hecky is sold on that route anyway. Just as Chris Wilder was when faced with a similar dilemma. Which doesn’t mean the game hasn’t got a big problem to address. We all hate the gamesmanship that sees players go down when barely touched, feign injury to waste time or break the tempo of a game. The reason United suffer more than most is that they are better than most. It’s part of living with being a top team at Championship level. But when it comes to winning and losing it’s the fans who are the biggest losers - and this is where my concern is greater. Seems Hecky feels the same. He took to his programme notes last weekend, saying: “My frustration is the direction the game is going, we’re allowing it to happen, we’re rewarding the dark arts … it is the behaviours that everyone agrees we don’t want to see that are being rewarded and surely that cannot be right.” He is unanswerably right, just as he admits his touchline reactions (sent off against Middlesbrough) can be wrong. But two wrongs don’t make a right when it comes to how the game is played. Hecky’s justified argument with officials is all the stronger for playing it the right way - and I remain equally convinced, as per nearly all season, that United will win promotion regardless. That’s what you call making a stand.