Sheffield United: The invitation Paul Heckingbottom refused to accept following win at Fulham

Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United manager, has explained why he declined an invitation to describe last night’s win over Championship leaders Fulham as a “statement” of intent.

Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 11:00 am

United stretched their unbeaten run to five matches when Iliman Ndiaye’s early strike at Craven Cottage delivered a fourth straight victory; three of which have come since Heckingbottom’s appointment four weeks ago.

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The result saw United move to within touching distance of the play-off positions ahead of the visit to Preston North End on Boxing Day. But asked if the outcome of a contest which saw defender Jack Robinson also impress would catch the attention of the division’s leading teams, Heckingbottom replied: “I’m not interested in ‘statements’. I’m not bothered about them to be honest. What I am interested in is performances and even more so results. Those are what are important.”

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United will begin their preparations for the trip to Lancashire 11th in the table, with clashes against Hull City and Middlesbrough - where Heckingbottom’s predecessor Chris Wilder is now in charge - also on the festive agenda.

“There’s things we can do better,” Heckingbottom added. “We can be a lot better with the ball, that’s for sure. But obviously I’m pleased with how the lads are doing. Really pleased in fact because that was a brilliant result. But statements? No, I don’t look at it like that because we’ve got to keep improving and driving things forward. That has to be the aim. Nothing else because there’s a lot of football to be played yet.”

London, England, 20th December 2021. Paul Heckingbottom manager of Sheffield United instructs his players during the Sky Bet Championship match at Craven Cottage, London: David Klein / Sportimage