Sheffield United: 'You can smell the fear in our opponents,' midfielder reveals after flying start

Oliver Norwood has spoken of the psychological effect Sheffield United’s powerful start to the new season is having upon opposition teams, revealing some of them are intimidated even before they step onto the pitch with Paul Heckingbottom’s team.
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Describing how United intimidated rivals into submission en route to their last promotion from the Championship, under Heckingbottom’s predecessor Chris Wilder three years ago, the former Northern Ireland midfielder believes a similar aura is developing around the 44-year-old’s squad.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s game against Swansea City, after last weekend’s meeting with Rotherham was postponed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Norwood said: “I remember the last time we got promoted. We would go into the tunnel and you could see the fear in teams. You could sense it in there, in the tunnel.

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“You look across the tunnel and think ‘We’ve got you.’ That was what it was like. How long can we keep it going for? I want it to get back to that place when it was so intimidating.”

United had prepared for the visit of their neighbours on top of the table, after winning five and drawing two of their first eight outings this term. Norwood, who moved to South Yorkshire the summer before Wilder lead the club into the Premier League, going on to achieve a ninth placed finish, has appeared in all of those fixtures and also last month’s visit to West Bromwich Albion in the Carabao Cup.

Unlike Rotherham, Swansea will attempt to dominate possession when they face United and Norwood continued: “I want us to entertain. I want the fans to enjoy themselves. We’re not going to just pass it around for the sake of it. We want to create havoc.

Oliver Norwood celebrates a Sheffied United goal: Simon Bellis / SportimageOliver Norwood celebrates a Sheffied United goal: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Oliver Norwood celebrates a Sheffied United goal: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“It felt like we had 12 players on the pitch, last time we went up. It feels like that again.”

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United’s results of late are in stark contrast to those they posted at the beginning of the previous campaign, when a combination of a pre-season wrecked by the Covid-19 pandemic and their hangover after being relegated from the top-flight left them in the lower reaches if the table before Heckingbottom’s appointment.

“Having a proper one has helped,” Norwood said. “We came back early, did nothing but run for two weeks, and it’s stood us in good stead.”