The 30 seconds that summed up a season, as Sheffield United are relegated

After one of the longest and slowest deaths in Premier League history, Sheffield United are down.

Saturday, 17th April 2021, 11:05 pm
Updated Saturday, 17th April 2021, 11:32 pm

Defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, coupled with Newcastle’s win over West Ham earlier in the day, saw the ‘R’ placed next to the visitors name for the first time this term.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone, least of all the players who appeared predictably dejected at the final whistle. But United’s fate is now official. And also mathematical. A return to the Championship, two years after gaining the second of their two promotions under Chris Wilder, beckons.

“There’s a lot of hurt in there, but there’s been a lot of hurt in there for a long time,” Paul Heckingbottom, who has been in caretaker charge for the past month, said. “It’s been confirmed now, even though everyone has been talking about it for a long time. Now we know our fate.”

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Wolverhampton Wanderers' Brazilian striker Willian José (centre left) scores the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton, central England on April 17, 2021. (Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by CATHERINE IVILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

United’s display at Molineux, where William Jose’s 60th minute goal proved enough to settle the game, highlighted why they find themselves languishing 19 .points from safety with only six matches remaining.

Seconds before Jose fired the hosts in front, with a clinical first time finish from Adama Traore’s cross, Enda Stevens had failed to convert a wonderful opportunity for United. Likewise David McGoldrick midway through the opening period, when he took too many touches inside the opposition box.

United do not lack industry. But, shorn of several key players because of injury, they are woefully short on invention and cutting edge.

“I thought those 30 seconds or so summed up pretty much the entire season,” Heckingbottom said, referring to the miss and then rapid counter which saw Wolves take the lead. “It’s an unforgiving league, especially whenever you look at the table because supposedly everyone is better than us.

"This is the most unforgiving and punishing league I think there is, without a shadow of a doubt. And it’s been tough for those lads.”

"Now it’s all about how we present ourselves,” he added. “About what we do during those remaining games, because that is something we can control. We have to look forward.”