The club record £24m signing has started just five of 17 Blades matches in 2021, and is yet to score his first goal for the club.
Having paid so much for him and got so little in return, they will probably struggle to sell him in the summer even if they want to, so must concentrate on getting him back to the form which produced 10 goals on loan at Swansea City in the second half of last season.
Heckingbottom brought him off the bench against Chelsea and Brewster was unfortunate to see a late shot deflect into the side-netting when a goal could have taken the FA Cup quarter-final into extra-time. It appears the interim manager will now try to build the 20-year-old’s confidence with a view to next season.
“I’ve spoken with Rhian, I think he’s responded well in training and I knew he’d get on at Chelsea,” said Heckingbottom. “We went with a more physical presence up top (from the start, selecting David McGoldrick and Oli McBurnie) and I was pleased with those two as well. We need that, we want that – if they’re not applying themselves well there’s others who can come in.”
Heckingbottom had given a debut from the bench to 21-year-old midfielder Iliman Ndiaye in his first game in charge, at Leicester City, but at Chelsea he stuck to tried and trusted senior players.
The club’s statement in announcing manager Chris Wilder’s departure hinted at more involvement for the club’s youngsters, and Heckingbottom had been serving as Under-23 coach until then.
He insists, though, he has a free hand to pick whoever he wants in this season’s remaining games as the club heads towards a seemingly inevitable relegation.
“There’s been no interference (from the boardroom) in terms of picking the team,” he said. “Iliman’s a good player, that’s why he got on the pitch (at Leicester).
“My job is to make sure the players are applying themselves the best they possibly can.”
The Blades resume their Premier League programme at Leeds United on Saturday 14 points from safety with nine matches to play.
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