The steps Sheffield United are taking to help Rhian Brewster observe Ramadan
Rhian Brewster, Sheffield United’s record transfer signing, has been prescribed a series of personalised training programmes by coaching staff at the club as he attempts to plot a course through the most difficult period of his embryonic career whilst observing Ramadan.
Interim manager Paul Heckingbottom revealed the 21-year-old, who is a practicing Muslim, initially struggled to combine his religious and footballing obligations with Bramall Lane’s medical department reporting he had lost a considerable amount of weight at the beginning of the fasting period.
Speaking to The Star ahead of Saturday’s Premier League fixture against Crystal Palace, Heckingbottom explained the steps both he and the player himself have taken to address the situation.
“We’ve got nutritionists in here already of course, and we know what the conditions (of Ramadan) are, which are unbendable.
“We’re looking at what he can eat and when he’s eating it, and it’s a learning experience for everyone.
“Rhian is doing this and he’s also still learning how to be a first team player, we’ve got to be mindful of both.
“To begin with, right at the start, he lost a lot of weight. So there’s things we’ve done to try and make it a little bit more easier for him, and I definitely believe they have.”
Twelve months ago, former United midfielder Mo Besic, who was on loan from Everton, detailed the meaning, benefits and challenges of Ramadan in an interview with this website. One of the ‘Five Pillars’ of Islam and most important periods on the faith’s calendar, it began this year on April 12 and is scheduled to end next week.
Brewster, who commanded a £23m fee when he arrived from Liverpool earlier this term, enters the meeting with Palace still searching for his first goal since leaving Anfield. With United’s relegation from the top-flight already confirmed, that barren 28 match run has prompted some to question the wisdom of the decision to invest so heavily in Brewster’s services, although Heckingbottom is convinced the youngster will come good.
Detailing the help he is being given, Heckingbottom, who took charge when Chris Wilder vacated his position in April, said: “We’ve tried to cut some things our for Rhian, such as looking at when we really put the load on him and when we look to deload things a little bit.
“When he was losing weight, he obviously wasn’t taking on as many calories because you can’t do that as much at night. So we took a look at when we were asking him to do certain things and when we might let him do something a bit different. It’s all good and should be of benefit.”
“Some players have been through this three, four, five times or even more,” Heckingbottom added. “Every player and every person is slightly different and so we’re being mindful and respectful of that.”
Having tasked him with the job of partnering David McGoldrick in recent weeks, Heckingbottom is expected to hand Brewster only the 13th top-flight start of his senior career when Palace travel to South Yorkshire.
"We’ve spoken with Rhian about what he needs to be doing football-wise, and it’s all been really positive,” he said.