Sheffield United's 'distraction' warning as they prepare for huge clash with Blackburn Rovers

Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United manager, has warned his players their FA Cup achievements must not be allowed to distract from the club’s number one priority this season: Winning automatic promotion from the Championship.
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Speaking ahead of today’s game against Blackburn Rovers, who United will face in the quarter-finals of the competition later this month following their victory over Tottenham Hotspur, Heckingbottom insisted he is treating league and knockout football as two separate entities. And, as United prepare to visit Ewood Park, the 45-year-old urged Bramall Lane’s first team squad to do exactly the same thing or risk being dragged back into the play-off positions.

“The two things, they are totally different,” Heckingbottom told The Star. “There’s a completely different feel to them both, completely different challenges. So, for that reason, I’m going to say there’s no link between what we do in one and the other. We’ve got a hugely important game coming up and that’s all we can be thinking about. Nothing else.”

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United are second in the table - two places above Rovers - after beating Watford last weekend. Middlesbrough, the team sandwiched in between them, trail Heckingbottom’s men by seven points and host Reading next. United travel to Berkshire on Tuesday, before meeting Luton Town. Like Rovers, they are mounting a strong push for play-off qualification, although Heckingbottom insisted both will have their eyes on an even greater prize.

“Not so long ago, Rovers were right up there, tailed off a bit and that saw lots of people begin to write them off,” said Heckingbottom, who will be without the suspended Anel Ahmedhodzic. “Not me and now look at them. They are right back in the mix again and they’ll be looking to kick-on.

“All of the teams below us will be, you can be certain of that. There’s going to be so many twists and turns between now and the end of the season and we’ve got to try and make sure that we stay ahead of the curve. That;s our job from here on in and, no matter what anyone else might be thinking, I can tell you now it’s not going to be easy because I know how hard the lads have worked so far.”