Sheffield United: The speech that inspired win at West Bromwich Albion

Sheffield United’s players have been praised for showing “personality” and “leadership” during their victory at West Bromwich Albion; a result which could reignite the visitors’ push for promotion from the Championship.
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West Bromwich Albion v Sheffield United: How Paul Heckingbottom's side wrecked C...

Strikes from Iliman Ndiaye and Oli McBurnie, who continues to excel despite being set to undergo hernia surgery during the World Cup break, helped secure United’s first win in seven outings following a convincing performance against Carlos Corberan’s side.

With both players now preparing for Tuesday’s trip to Bristol City searching for their eighth goals of the campaign, the spotlight inevitably fell on the performance of United’s attack during the post-match inquest.

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But highlighting the contribution others made to what proved a dominant display until a flurry of substitutions, some of which were enforced, allowed Corberan’s men to establish a foothold in the contest, Heckingbottom said: “Jack (Lester, United’s head of player development) spoke about it beforehand, before the match itself and I told the players. He was talking about personality, the personality and approach that makes them what they are.

“That’s what we are all about: Personality. I thought the lads showed that in abundance and leadership as well. I wouldn’t like to single anyone out. It would be unfair of me to do that. So I’m not going to do it, because that was all about the group as a whole.”

Despite stressing his unwillingness to focus on individuals, Heckingbottom promptly did exactly that; albeit to emphasise the point he was trying to make.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom celebrates the win with the fans: Andrew Yates / SportimageSheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom celebrates the win with the fans: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom celebrates the win with the fans: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

“Bash (Chris Basham) was out of position, Ozzy (Ben Osborn) was at wing-back and Iliman had to drop back later in the game,” he added. “Everybody put in. Everybody played their part, because no matter what anyone says, we had to earn that.”

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Three points clear of second-place after beating Preston North End on September 17th, United are now fourth and six behind new leaders Burnley ahead of their appearance at Bramall Lane on Saturday. Although Albion were poor for long periods, and require a major upturn in form to drag themselves off the foot of the table and clear of the relegation zone, the display United produced bore many of the same hallmarks as those which saw them wrestle control of the race for a top two finish until a combination of injuries and chequered results began to gnaw away at their confidence. It is now imperative they build upon their showing against Corberan’s men at Ashton Gate, where City came close to beating sixth placed Swansea City over the weekend.

“It felt good and it looked good but it didn’t feel dominant, because we had to earn it,” said Heckingbottom. “We had to work hard to find a spare man in midfield, because we thought we knew how they would play. Getting two up early, the pattern changes. We can then force mistakes. I was pleased.”

It’s all about goals isn’t it,” he added. “We made mistakes but we covered them. We defended the box well and then capitalised when we had the chances to do that.”