Ever since Heckingbottom took the managerial reins from Chris Wilder in mid-March, relegation has been inevitable so he has constantly spoken about the motivations for players to produce their best in the lost cause.
A victory over Brighton and Hove Albion in the first game after relegation was confirmed raised hopes that with the pressure lifted, a team that finished in last season’s top half might once more show what they were capable of, but Heckingbottom was very unhappy with Sunday night’s first-half display against Spurs.
“First half was too passive,” he said. “With the ball we weren’t good enough, without the ball we were too stand-offish. The second half was the exact opposite, how we want to play, how this team can play and what’s brought them success.
“While we got punished with the goals the attitude was much better.
“Especially when you’re playing against opposition like this you can’t be fearful. If your best is not good enough, so be it, but the first half wasn’t our best.
“It was more or less a bit of shock treatment at half-time, making substitutions, upsetting people, trying to change the mentality.
“Funnily enough the performance was much better second half and we ended up getting punished but the first-half performance, starting on the back foot the way we did, is not going to give a you a chance to win games in this league.”
Trailing to Gareth Bale’s opener, Rhian Brewster, who only touched the ball 10 times in the first 45 minutes, and Jayden Bogle were replaced by Oliver Burke and Sander Berge at the break. Bale completed a hat-trick in the second half as the hosts won 4-0. Chris Basham called some of the goals conceded “a bit criminal”.
The Blades have four matches left this season and with Heckingbottom last week confirmed as being on a five-man shortlist to take the job permanently despite only one win from his seven matches, they would be well advised not to leave him having to resort to “shock treatment” again.
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