Paul Heckingbottom says quitting Sheffield United never crossed his mind despite insufficient transfer window so far

Paul Heckingbottom goes into his first game as a full-time Premier League manager without the tools he feels he needs for the season ahead. But no matter how tough the odds, he is adamant he will not walk away.
DETERMINED: Sheffield United manager Paul HeckingbottomDETERMINED: Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom
DETERMINED: Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom

Expectations will be low at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday, but they were the last time the club returned to the top-flight, and they finished ninth in 2019-20.

Anyone predicting that this season could be offered a red-and-white-striped straitjacket but Heckingbottom's hope that things will get better were boosted by the news that highly-rated playmaker Gustavo Hamer is close to completing a £15m move from Coventry City.

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Julen Lopetegui's discontent with Wolverhampton Wanderers' transfer approach, flagged up in the media at the start of the summer, saw him walk out at the very end of it.

VISA WAIT: Brazilian midfielder Vinicius SouzaVISA WAIT: Brazilian midfielder Vinicius Souza
VISA WAIT: Brazilian midfielder Vinicius Souza

Having lost his two best players, Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge, in August and so far only been able to sign five inexperienced players, Heckingbottom openly admits he does not have a good enough squad for a top-flight season.

But he has faced these sort of problems before at Bramall Lane, where spending power has been tightly restricted by an owner looking to sell and just as it did not stop them winning promotion from last season's Championship, so the manager promises it will not stop them being competitive this.

Asked if he had contemplated resignation too, Heckingbottom's reply is delivered instantly, and with a chuckle: "No.

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"There's a narrative out there and maybe it's because you're so wrapped up in it and you're trying to improve things and drive it (that you do not share it).


"Myself, the staff and the players, I can 100 per cent guarantee we won't throw the towel in, not a chance, no matter what happens in these next three weeks.

"If we'd had that approach, we wouldn't be sat here now in the Premier League. We've had plenty of excuses if we needed them to not go that little extra yard when it got tough, to not do that extra bit of work, have a night off. We won't do that."

Asked if he felt let down by a board who are understood to have given him £20m to upgrade the second-best team in last season's Championship, still heavily reliant on many of the players relegated in 2021, to top-flight standards, Heckingbottom say not.

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"...Because we're not done yet," said the Yorkshireman, whose only previous top-flight experience came as caretaker manager in the last knockings of that dismal relegation campaign. "If this was it now and we're done, we've not had a good window. We've got a lot of work to do in the next three weeks and we're well aware of it.

"It's my job to push and push and drive that in these next three weeks and make sure we get some players in that can really help us."

Brazilian-born Netherlands youth international Hamer had been linked with Leeds United this summer but the Whites have struggled to raise cash through player sales with most of their top earners leaving on loan thanks to relegation release clauses in their contracts. The Bramall Lane sales only began in August, but Ndiaye and Berge brought in eight-figure sums.

Hamer was one of the Championship's star performers last season, along with striker Viktor Gyokeres, who moved to Sporting Lisbon on the back of it, the inspiration behind Coventry's surprise run to the play-off final.

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Whatever the Blades' deficiencies this season, Heckingbottom insists spirit will not be one.

"We will compete," he promised.

"I remember last season and the team we put out against Spurs (in the FA Cup, which featured a number of changes from the last Championship team). People were saying, 'Why's he put out that team out?' It wasn't a weakened team, not at all.

"There were players in the squad ready to go who had an opportunity against a top team and Bramall Lane was rocking. It was a team fighting and giving everything to win. That will be the same on Saturday."

Still, he is realistic enough to accept finishing one place above the relegation zone.

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"One hundred per cent – did you expect a different answer?" he says. "That's not our aim. Our aim is to go and beat Palace, that's it, then prepare for Forest, the game after, then (Manchester) City.

"That's how we have to prepare it because you can have moments in this league, you see it all the time, where you get a couple of results and people start talking a different way. You can easily go 12 without a win. So it's always the next game, no matter where you are in the league."

So far this summer the Blades have signed centre-back Auston Trusty, forward Benie Traore, midfielder Anis Slimane, left-back Yasser Larouci and holding midfielder Vinicius Souza. The latter on joined from Belgian club Lommel without any match practice but if he receives a visa in time, he will be thrown into the fray anyway.

"He'd have no choice, he'd be in!" said Heckingbottom.

"He's not where he wants to be, he's had no football for a long time. He's been training but not 11 v 11. He's way behind because he's not going to get that match exposure."