The gauntlet has been thrown down to Sheffield United's players as they come to terms with relegation
Sheffield United have been told they still have plenty to play for this season, despite entering this weekend’s game against Brighton and Hove Albion knowing they have already been relegated from the Premier League.
Nineteen points adrift of safety with only six matches remaining, United’s fate was sealed when they were beaten by Wolverhampton Wanderers five days ago.
But Paul Heckingbottom, who took temporary charge of United when Chris Wilder parted company with the club last month, refuted suggestions the meeting with Graham Potter’s side is effectively a dead rubber.
“We are playing for points, for different motivations and for different reasons now,” Heckingbottom said. “For careers, for the club and most importantly for the fans, who hopefully we’ll be back out there in front of soon.
“Although our season is over in the sense that we know what our fate is, the focus in front of us is that we still need to win. That’s all we are thinking about.”
"Everyone has had a chat and, to be honestm the attitude among the lads is good,” Heckingbottom said. “It always has been. They know there’s pride at stake, they know the importance of getting back into a winning habit and they know the imporance of representing this football club in the correct manner.”
Although it still came as a crushing blow, United’s pain at surrendering their top-flight status following a dispiriting campaign in South Yorkshire was lessened by the fact it did not come as a surprise after losing all but six of their 31 outings en route to Molineux.
“There’s no noose around anyone’s neck now,” Heckingbottom said, trying his best to put a positive spin on the situation. “It’s done, it’s gone. What’s the worst that can happen? Well, it just has.
“I’m not going to say that we’ve got nothing to lose because we have and it’s called a football match.
“But what we will do is go out there and try to be really positive. Brighton are a good side but we’ll be trying to cause them problems and make sure they have plenty to think about.”