Tommy Doyle's ommision from Sheffield United's starting eleven is explained ahead of Sunderland
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On loan from Manchester City, Doyle has not started any of the three games United have contested following that fifth round victory; being introduced as a substitute during the defeats to Blackburn Rovers and Luton Town whilst watching last week’s visit to Reading from the bench.
With Paul Heckingbottom admitting that United fell “way below” their usual high standards against Rob Edwards’ side last weekend, there are calls for Doyle to be handed a more prominent role at the Stadium of Light.
Although Heckingbottom was understandably coy about his selections for the trip to Wearside, he did shed light on why the 21-year-old has not been handed greater opportunities to build upon arguably his most impressive display in a United jersey.
Referencing the calf injuries which hampered Doyle’s progress earlier this term, the manager said: “Tommy picked up two of those when he had big physical outputs and then gone game after game after game. So he definitely wasn’t going to play straight away after the Spurs match, because we had to be mindful of that.”
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Another City youngster, James McAtee, was also placed with United before the beginning of the present campaign and Heckingbottom added: “At Reading, because of the way we wanted to go about things, we thought Macca was the right choice (to start) there. When we saw the team that Reading had picked, when we saw who they’d gone with, we knew that we’d made the right choice. We have a style but we can also change personnel within that.”
Having once seemed odds on to secure the Championship’s second automatic promotion slot behind runaway leaders Burnley, United's grip on the runners-up berth has significantly weakened of late. Indeed, by the time they kick-off against Tony Mowbray’s side, they might only be one point clear of third-placed Middlesbrough if Michael Carrick’s men beat Stoke City tomorrow.
“It’s in our hands,” Heckingbottom said. “That’s a positive.”