Sheffield United: The personalities who will aid play-off push

Experience, a television pundit and a former Fulham midfielder have taught Oliver Norwood that personality is important when the pressure builds.

Thursday, 5th May 2022, 3:11 pm
Updated Friday, 6th May 2022, 7:10 am

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Sheffield United: Manager already knows the secret of success against Fulham

Chasing his fourth promotion in as many Championship seasons, one of which was gained during a spell with the visitors from west London, the former Northern Ireland international and his Sheffield United team mates know that beating Marco Silva’s side will guarantee them a place in the play-offs.

Oliver Norwood of Sheffield United celebrates with scorer Jack Robinson: David Klein / Sportimage

Fifth in the table and two points ahead of seventh placed Middlesbrough, now managed by Paul Heckingbottom’s predecessor Chris Wilder, United know there is precious little margin for error against opponents who have already wrapped-up promotion and also the title.

But with seven veterans of the squad Wilder led into the top flight three years ago either available for selection or set to be loitering around their dressing room ahead of kick-off, Norwood knows anyone who might be feeling the heat will have no shortage of examples to follow.

The big influences

“A big influence for me,” said Norwood, reflecting on his stint at Brighton and Hove Albion, “Was Glenn Murray, who works on the telly now. When I went there, he was brilliant as a senior player in and around the group. The same goes for Dale Stephens.”

Jimmy Dunne of QPR tackled by Oliver Norwood: David Klein / Sportimage

“When I went to Fulham,” he continued, “There was Kevin McDonald,who of course played here too. He was a huge influence with the way he went about things. They were all different people with different personalities.”

Now aged 31 and having reached the Premier League with Albion, Silva’s employers and of course United, Norwood is one of the most knowledgeable and dependable performers at Heckingbottom’s disposal. But the presence of numerous others, a relic of Wilder’s policy that big clubs require big characters, should, he insisted ahead of United’s final match of the regular season, work in their favour.

“When I signed here, there was Bash (Chris Basham) and Sharpy (Billy Sharp) who know this place inside out,” Norwood said. “You always need at least two or three of those in the dressing room: Fantastic players who don’t just have the personality but also go out there and produce. They take the lead and then it’s up to others to follow them.”

The promotion winners

Although a muscle injury threatens to rule Sharp out of action until the summer, United’s captain and leading goalscorer is still expected to help Heckingbottom’s team prepare to face opponents who were also relegated last term. John Egan, who will take the armband, is a Republic of Ireland international while his compatriots Enda Stevens and Conor Hourihane have won promotions with United and Aston Villa respectively.

"It is about knowing who needs an arm around them and who needs a rocket at times,” said Norwood. “We have a good blend, personalities and a good dressing room and the dressing room has always been strong since I have been here.”

“Credit to the old manager who brought a lot of us is,” added Norwood, who was signed by Wilder.. “We have always had that togetherness and I think it is quite easy for people to come in and fit in here and that is something you need at a football club.”