Why Paul Heckingbottom is refusing to go public with any criticism of Sheffield United's players

Paul Heckingbottom, Sheffield United’s caretaker manager, insisted his players are not shying away from the harsh reality of the situation they find themselves in but refused to join in the public chorus of disapproval about the club’s performances this term.

By James Shield
Monday, 12th April 2021, 6:00 am

United slipped to their 25th defeat in 31 Premier League outings when they were beaten 3-0 by Arsenal last night, a result which leaves them 18 points adrift of safety with only seven matches remaining.

Although Heckingbottom conceded United contributed to their own downfall against the visitors, who were previously without a clean sheet since January, he explained why his criticism will remain behind closed doors.

“We do criticise each other in there, the dressing room,” Heckingbottom told The Star. “We know where things are going wrong and what people are saying.

Sheffield, England, 11th April 2021. Paul Heckingbottom temporary manager of Sheffield Utd with Lys Mousset of Sheffield Utd at the final whistle during the Premier League match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Picture credit should read: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

“We are in a profession, where if you are a player or a manager, people are always going to have an opinion on you and what you are doing. There’s enough people talking and having a pop outside of the building, which we understand and accept.

“But in there, we also stick together. We are truthful and honest. But we stick together, including when we step outside of it.”

Alexandre Lacazette scored twice, either side of a Gabriel Martinelli effort, as Arsenal cruised to victory, Martinelli’s strike came following a mistake by John Lundstram, who gifted possession to the Londoners.

The result will lead to further calls for United to intensify their search for Chris Wilder’s permanent replacement, with Alexander Blessin of Opostende and Slavisa Jokanovic, previously of Fulham and Watford, also thought to be under consideration.

“It was disappointing.,” Heckingbottom said. “The scoreline seems harsh, but the margins are so fine. I thought we had our strongest moments just before their second goal, and that took the wind out of our sails.”

"We made some changes, to try and get higher up the pitch and to make a difference,” he added. “They had that effect and then what happened happened, which made a big difference because goals change the complexion of games more than anything else in football.”