Sheffield United's injured duo Brewster and Norrington-Davies face a psychological as well as physical challenge
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Neither Brewster nor Norrington-Davies have featured since October after being diagnosed with serious hamstring issues, with the latter also suffering the crushing blow of missing Wales’ trip to last year’s World Cup in Qatar as a result.
Numerous members of a team which entered the international break ranked second in the Championship table and preparing for an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City have insisted that Brewster and Norrington-Davies have continued to contribute thanks to their behaviour behind the scenes.
But Heckingbottom acknowledged that won’t always feel like the case for the pair; hence the fact he continues to set them tasks such as helping to prepare strategies and game plans for upcoming matches.
“It’s tough when you’re out,” the United manager told The Star. “It can be very lonely at times as well, even though I know they’ll be glad to have each other at the moment. I know from personal experience how difficult it can be when you’re in that position - when you see the lads all travelling away to a game and you’re not getting on the bus. The rest of the lads always get around them, because they want to give that support back Rhys and Rhi give to them.”
With hopes being expressed over Christmas that both could be set for returns to action before the end of the campaign, the lack of updates surrounding their progress have inevitably led to concerns they have suffered set-backs of late. However, although he refused to be drawn on whether Brewster or Norrington-Davies are expected to make their comebacks this term, Heckingbottom confessed he has sometimes been deliberately opaque out of respect for the duo’s privacy.
“I’m always aware that, in any other walk of life, people would get annoyed if their medical history was being discussed publicly by others,” Heckingbottom said. “So I just try and get a balance, because I also understand why this situation is a little different.”