Birmingham City v Sheffield United: What the boss had to say about Blues fan protests

Reports that Birmingham City fans are planning to protest against their club’s owners should not lull Sheffield United into a false sense of security ahead of their visit to St Andrews tonight, Paul Heckingbottom has warned.

Friday, 4th February 2022, 11:05 am

Followers of Lee Bowyer’s team have voiced their concerns about a number of issues, including the state of their stadium and perceived lack of transparency from Birmingham Sports Holdings Limited, in recent months with even chairman Wenqing Zhao admitting the company’s communications could improve.

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With the meeting with United set to be broadcast live on television, the fixture represents an opportunity for City supporters to highlight their concerns to a nationwide audience.

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But Heckingbottom, the visitors’ manager, insisted: “I was down with Jack (Lester, United’s head of player development) at St Andrews for their match with Peterborough. There was a demo on the way to the ground.

“But the one thing that’s apparent is that they (the fans) are behind the players and they are behind Lee. The issue with the fans is how the club is being run. So we know every person in that stadium, well, the home ends at least, are going to want City to win. We have to be ready to front up to that on the pitch.”

Heckingbottom expects City to pose a test of United’s physical capabilities, briefing his side on the threat they pose from set-pieces and direct style. Although he wants his squad to dictate the tempo and the flow of the game, Heckingbottom suggested he could make changes to combat the hosts’ strengths and accentuate their weaknesses.

Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United manager: David Klein / Sportimage

Reflecting on United’s win over Peterborough last weekend, Heckingbottom said: “I feel we have got options, not only before the games but during them as well. We made changes against Peterborough, bringing Flecky (John Fleck) on in midfield. There were other options from the bench as well.”

With Daniel Jebbison being recalled from a spell on loan at Burton Albion, Heckingbottom added: “He brings a different dynamic as well. He’s got that ability to run in behind if we need that and he’s come on so much since being there as well.”

Birmingham City manager Lee Bowyer (right) and former Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic: Simon Bellis / Sportimage