Sheffield United: The player whose importance must not be underestimated

Ben Osborn’s footballing intelligence has been identified as a key weapon in Sheffield United’s armoury as they chase a place in the Championship play-offs.

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The 27-year-old, whose contract is scheduled to expire at the end of the season, has appeared in a number of different positions for Paul Heckingbottom’s side this season; with his latest coming at wing-back during last week’s win over Queens Park Rangers.

That result has seen United prepare for next Sunday’s visit of Fulham sixth in the table with only one match of their regular campaign remaining.

Queens Park Rangers' Ilias Chair (left) and Sheffield United's Ben Osborn: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

With injuries continuing to affect Heckingbottom’s plans - George Baldock, Billy Sharp and Oli McBurnie were among those to miss the game against Mark Warburton’s team - Heckingbottom has told The Star that Osborn’s tactical flexibility could become doubly important, saying: “The great thing about Ben is that he just gets it - he gets football and he understands it.

“On top of that, he just gets on with things too. That’s a great quality to have and it's great to work with as well.

“He’s obviously got somewhere he prefers being. But you can ask him to do something else and you know he’s going to be able to do it well.”

Although Sharp has been ruled-out of United’s forthcoming fixture against Fulham after tearing a calf muscle, Heckingbottom is hopeful the fitness issues which have blighted his squad in recent months are beginning to ease. Defender Chris Basham recently returned to action following a ligament problem while Baldock is confident of featuring.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: David Klein / Sportimage

If Baldock receives the all-clear, the former MK Dons man is expected to be immediately parachuted back into Heckingbottom’s starting eleven. However, that would not diminish Osborn’s role among the squad as United plot an immediate return to the Premier League following last term’s relegation.

“One of the things getting some of the lads back has done is, when you look to the bench, you see a lot more possibilities and options there,” explained Heckingbottom. “And you need that during matches, definitely. It gives you more possibilities, depending on what is happening and going on at the time.”