Sheffield United unveil a key part of their Premier League blueprint

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom has vowed to try and build a squad capable of attacking the Premier League next season, insisting that represents its best chance of surviving at the highest level.
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Despite acknowledging his budget for new signings will be limited, with coaching staff again expected to focus heavily on the loan market, Heckingbottom believes it would be a mistake for United to adopt a safety first approach against the finest attacks in the country.

Instead, after leading them out of the Championship table last term, the 45-year-old wants United to emulate elements of the game plan which saw his predecessor Chris Wilder deliver a ninth placed top-flight finish after achieving the second of his two promotions at the helm in 2019. Nine of those who featured during Monday’s 2-1 victory over Birmingham City, United’s final match of the campaign, were veterans of that team.

Sheffield United's squad plans to attack the Premier League: Simon Bellis / SportimageSheffield United's squad plans to attack the Premier League: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Sheffield United's squad plans to attack the Premier League: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
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“We don’t want to be a defensive team in the Premier League,” Heckingbottom said. “Well, by that I mean a defensively minded one. That first season (Under Wilder) United were really strong defensively but they were also great going forward. That made them a real force and was the foundation of that success.”

“We are going to have to be strong at the back again, but also pose a threat going in the other direction too,” he added. “Be a side that is capable of taking those moments when they arise.”

Although their achievements over the past 10 months will guarantee at least £170m is pumped into the club’s coffers over the course of the next three campaigns, the resources United’s hierarchy make available to Heckingbottom this summer are likely to be limited unless there is a major change to either policy or their circumstances. Owner Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud recently tried to sell his stake to Nigerian businessman Dozy Mmobuosi, although a period of exclusivity granted to the entrepreneur later lapsed despite his claims they had agreed a price of £115m. Meanwhile, with uncertainty at board level preventing Heckingbottom from renegotiating new contracts with any of the 11 players whose deals could be about to expire, the former Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian chief discovered in January that his employers had been placed under a transfer embargo by the English Football League after failing to keep up with their repayments on previous purchases. Although that has since been lifted, using money generated by United’s march into the semi-finals of the FA Cup, Heckingbottom told journalists following the victory at St Andrews that they are “still paying off” some of the purchases they brokered towards the end of their last stay in the PL - even though a financial facility was subsequently taken out with an Australian bank with works extensively in European football.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom does not want his team to be compliant against the best in the country: Simon Bellis / SportimageSheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom does not want his team to be compliant against the best in the country: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom does not want his team to be compliant against the best in the country: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“We’ve got to be sensible, in terms of how we look to play,” Heckingbottom said. “But we also want to show some personality, which is what we’ve been doing all season long. That’s the reason why these lads have done what they’ve done and we want that to continue. It has to continue.”