Sheffield United star reveals his top priority next season - and is praised for admitting it isn't promotion
Enda Stevens’ decision to cite regaining the respect of Sheffield United supporters as his number one priority next season has been praised by caretaker manager Paul Heckingbottom, who described the defender’s comment as conclusive proof that Bramall Lane’s first team squad cares about the future of the club.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit to Newcastle where United will contest their penultimate match of what has been a miserable season, Stevens admitted that producing performances the fans can be proud of was his immediate concern.
Last weekend’s victory over Everton was only United’s sixth in the competition since September, with relegation back to the Championship after two years in the top-flight being confirmed four weeks ago.
“I think it’s great of Enda to say that, about getting the respect of the supporters back,” Heckingbottom said. “I think that shows you what he is all about and what the players are all about, for him to come out and say that. I’m really pleased to hear it.”
“Listen, there’s never been a lack of effort here,” he continued. “Never. But it’s been tough when things don’t go your way and you know you’re putting it all in.
"You wpouldn’t be human if that didn’t start to eat away at you a bit. But I think it’s brilliant to hear Enda talk in that regard, because it gives an insight into what he and the rest of the boys care about.”
Placed in interim charge when Chris Wilder parted company with United in March, Heckingbottom’s tactics and team selection were rewarded with a much-improved display on Merseyside, where teenager Daniel Jebbison scored the only goal of the game on his full senior debut.
Admitting the game plan he devised will form the basis of the one United employ in the North-East, Heckingbottom said: “If you want to be in this league, then you need to take care of the big moments - otherwise games get away from you. Everyone wants the same thing, which is the win.
“Before Everton, because we weren’t quite sure how they’d set up, there was a real focus on us and making sure our system hurt them and that we got off to a strong start.”