Sheffield United star reveals crucial international break change ahead of huge last eight games

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Rest and recuperation has played a big part in Sheffield United’s plans over the international break, as manager Paul Heckingbottom attempts to reenergise his squad for a last eight games that will define the club’s immediate future.

The Blades went into the break fifth in the Championship table and hoping to secure their place in the end-of-season shootout which they hope will deliver them back to the Premier League at the first attempt.

Their push for the play-offs has been played out amidst a remarkable backdrop of injuries, with a number of key men ruled out for the season and others, including influential defender Chris Basham, missing for some time.

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While a number of their leading stars jetted off to represent their respective countries during the break, including Sander Berge, John Egan and Morgan Gibbs-White, those who remained behind at United’s Shirecliffe training base were told to stay away for large periods of last week before reconvening ahead of this weekend’s trip to Stoke City.

United’s international stars aren’t due back to Shirecliffe until Thursday morning, threatening to throw Heckingbottom’s preparations for the Stoke game into disarray.

“We had four days off,” one man who stayed behind in England, midfielder Ollie Norwood, revealed.

Sheffield United's Oliver Norwood during training: Simon Bellis/SportimageSheffield United's Oliver Norwood during training: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Sheffield United's Oliver Norwood during training: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“He [Heckingbottom] literally said: ‘Go and spend some time with your families, switch off and recuperate’.

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“We were back in Thursday and Friday and then had another couple of days off at the weekend. The big thing for us is trying to get a few bodies back.

“I think everyone’s aware of the injuries we’ve had for the last two or three weeks, hopefully we can get a couple back after the break because it was a tough slog.

“Playing Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday was difficult for the lads and we didn’t really have the opportunity to change the team or freshen it up.

“So to put ourselves in the position we have with eight games to go is good. We know we’re not over the line, but we’re in with a shout and hopefully we can get some bodies back and push on.”

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United are sweating over the fitness of skipper Billy Sharp, after he came off in the victory over Barnsley last time out after damaging a hamstring.

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