Sheffield United: The bravery Wales defender has shown in the face of World Cup heartbreak
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Although neither Heckingbottom nor his counterpart in Cardiff, former United centre-half Robert Page, have explicitly ruled Norrington-Davies out of the tournament in Qatar, the 44-year-old last night confirmed he faces “months” rather than weeks on the sidelines.
United’s refusal to place a timescale on when Norrington-Davies is likely to return to action stems from the fact they are canvassing opinion from a variety of medical experts about how best to repair the damage he sustained during last week’s defeat by Coventry City.
But Heckingbottom told The Star that, despite facing up to the biggest disappointment of his career, Norrington-Davies had attended their next match - against Norwich City - in person.
“He put his personal disappointments to one side and was their cheering the lads on,” Heckingbottom said. “He wants them to do well. He wants us to do well. While he’s out, there’s nothing he can do (on the pitch) to help them and so he was trying to make a difference in other ways. He was around the place, with a smile on his face and that was great to see. It tells you a lot about him.”
Despite putting on a brave face in public, Norrington-Davies will privately be distraught at the prospect of missing Wales’ trip to the Middle East.
“The biggest thing, with an injury, is that mental side to things,” Heckingbottom acknowledged. “Physios have to be good psychologists as well, definitely. They’ve got to be able to build really good relationships with players.”
Explaining why Norrington-Davies is consulting with a number of different specialists before deciding upon a programme of rehabilitation, Heckingbottom added: “We are allowing him to have input because, as a player, you are effectively self-employed. There’s lots of different things to be asking, that he should be allowed to ask, and there’s lots of different opinions and ideas about what the right way forward is. It’s all done through us.”
Meanwhile, speaking as United prepare for tomorrow’s visit to West Bromwich Albion, Heckingbottom has called upon supporters to “help” the club avoid further sanction after it emerged they have been contacted by Sheffield Council and the relevant safety advisory bodies about an issue in one part of their stadium. United have taken the decision to stop selling tickets on a matchday basis in The Kop having received reports of people persistently standing and, more significantly, refusing to watch from their allocated seats.
Fearing that United could be forced to close certain parts of Bramall Lane if the matter is not addressed, Heckingbottom said: “Obviously it’s got to a point where the club has been under pressure and we have to do something about it before it’s taken out of our control.
“We’ll appeal to the fans to help us manage it ourselves because then, it is in our hands. Rightly they (the authorities) focus on safety. But if something happens, it’s all our fans who are hit.”