Sheffield United: Warning issued about 'unexpected threats' ahead of Wigan Athletic clash

Sheffield United have received a warning about what the second half of the season might have in store, with manager Paul Heckingbottom predicting some unexpected threats to their position in the Championship’s automatic promotion places will “definitely” emerge.
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After making an impressive start to the new campaign, winning more than half of their league outings so far this term despite a lengthy casualty list, United enter tomorrow’s game at Wigan Athletic knowing victory would see them open up a five point gap over Blackburn Rovers in third.

Although Heckingbottom is pleased with his squad’s achievements over the past five months, often in the most difficult of circumstances, he reminded them that the race for Premier League football has yet to truly take shape.

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Indeed, having taken charge of a team languishing in the bottom half of the table when he was appointed just over a year ago, he used United’s own surge into last term’s play-offs as evidence “two or three” sides will force their way into the conversation after Christmas.

“There will be someone who goes on a run, there always is, you can be sure about it,” Heckingbottom said, revealing why he wants to improve United’s points per game average. “Look at where we were back then. Look at (Nottingham) Forest who we faced, they were right down there.

“If we produce our best form during the second-half of the season then I think we can go up. But there will probably be at least someone who has better form than us. We just have to hope that it’s the right someone, the right teams.”

Heckingbottom was referring to the likes of Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion, who are beginning to show signs of life after experiencing troubled periods. If those continue, he suspects both will be confident of securing at least a top six finish. But if others, including Norwich City and Watford begin to fire, it would put huge pressure on United. They entered the latest round of fixtures ranked fourth and fifth respectively.

“We just want to be in the shake-up,” Heckingbottom added. “We want to carry on doing what we’re doing and making sure we remain in a position where it’s about us and what we do, not anyone else.”