Newcastle United v Sheffield United - Club record signing Rhian Brewster v 17-year-old Daniel Jebbison for Blades start
For probably as long as Heckingbottom has been in temporary charge, succeeding Chris Wilder in March, the Bramall Lane focus has been on preparing for the Championship next season. That process continues at Newcastle United tonight in the penultimate match of a miserable campaign.
With no realistic chance of getting their investment on former Liverpool forward back this summer, the Blades probably have little choice but to get behind Brewster, still to score this season, and hope he can rediscover the form which saw him net 10 Championship goals on loan at Swansea City in the second half of last season.
On Sunday, Heckingbottom preferred to hand teenager Jebbison a full senior debut at Everton, with Brewster an unused substitute.
Jebbison marked the occasion with a goal, but Heckingbottom has no concerns about him getting carried away – and just as he cannot think he has made it, so the club cannot lose sight of continuing his development.
“Rhian’s pleased we won,” said Heckingbottom. “No-one celebrated as much or wished everyone well before the game as much as Rhian so in that respect he’s great, fantastic.
“But obviously he wants to play and for it to be him getting his first goal. We’d all love that.
“If he gets the opportunity, why not let it gee him on and inspire him to get his first one because everyone will celebrate just as he did.”
Heckingbottom, who was manager of the club’s Under-23s before taking on his first-team role, thinks Jebbison is in the right environment to stay grounded.
“I’ve already spoken briefly with him about social media,” he said.
“He’s got a good agent to look after him, good family around him, good staff around the academy so there’s not a chance at this club that anyone will let him get his feet off the ground. He’ll be well and truly grounded here.
“But you can look now at how many articles were written about him off the back of Sunday so that’s the change. You just have to remember you are the same person and what’s got you here means you have to keep working hard.
“It’ll be the support around him that keep him progressing in the right way.
“It won’t be smooth, there’ll be bumps along the way and we have to prepare him for that. They understand that.
“I hope he is in a position where he can prove me wrong and his performances keep him around the team for the foreseeable but there won’t be any pressure on him from us as a 17-year-old. We want him to enjoy this moment but keep working hard because he’s nowhere near the finished player yet.”
Heckingbottom has warned the club’s coaches will still need to invest a lot of time in getting Jebbison to that point, even if being on the Championship treadmill next season makes it more difficult.
“One thing we need to do with him as a club is keep working him, keep training him, keep making sure he gets the development he needs on the training ground,” he stressed.
“In the Championship, if you are a starter playing Saturday, Tuesday virtually every week, a lot of time is spent recovering and not training. Every young player needs that development still. That has to be considered rather than once they’re in the first team they’re (just) a first-team player.
“With technology, there’s a lot more coaching in classrooms and with video analysis.
“Even if someone’s starting regularly and recovering inbetween they can still be getting a lot of tactical work indoors with video really specific to their position but I’m a massive believer that you still have to experience it and you have to paint pictures and have them making decisions on the training ground.
“You need to have a real clear way of playing so regardless of what you’re up against, the player knows his role in the team and he’s forever practicing it against different opposition, games and systems.”
The game will be the Blades’ first in front of fans since March 7, 2020, and although only home supporters will be allowed in, Heckingbottom thinks the atmosphere will help his players too.
“I think everyone will be delighted they’re back so whatever results you get in the next couple of games, I don’t think you can read anything into it,” he said.
“Everyone’s just as excited as everyone else and it’s going to give both sets of players a lift.”
Last six games: Newcastle United LWLDWW; Sheffield United WLLWLL.
Referee: R Jones (Merseyside).
Last time: Newcastle United 3 Sheffield United 0, June 21, 2020, Premier League.
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