Sheffield United v Bournemouth: Enda Stevens feeling relaxed as Blades prepare for tense Championship run-in

A PLAYER who quietly goes about his business in effective but unassuming fashion, Enda Stevens has similar character traits.

The Sheffield United defender is, by his own admission, not a ‘shouter’. He leaves that to others. A low-maintenance individual, Stevens can always be counted upon to reliably do his work and then slip off back home to his young family. Managers do not worry about people like him.

The Republic of Ireland international, who returned from injury in the midweek win over QPR, may not be a ranter or raver but it takes all sorts. At this key ‘business end’ when fates unravel, he will keep his emotions to himself in the dressing room as he mentally gets in the zone. Quietly.

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Just as he did in that golden special time for the Blades at the end of 2018-19. This spring also has the portents to be special too.

THE RUN-IN: Sheffield United's Enda Stevens, left, with manager Paul Heckingbottom, right. Picture: Andrew Yates/Sportimage

To gain success, it is all about handling stress. Stevens can be counted upon in that regard; you must embrace stress if anything.

Stevens said: “There’s so much to play for. The games become more and more pressure and there’s more to lose.

“Easter is always a big weekend. It’s so competitive at the top and bottom and does feel different. You know what’s at stake.

“When we went up in the first season, it only really felt real over Easter. The Ipswich game was the most stressful I’d ever played in, but that’s what you want. It’s success; you get so close that it affects everybody.

ENDA STEVENS: The defender, right, made his return from injury against QPR. Picture: Andrew Yates/Sportimage.

“In a way, everyone is different in how they psyche themselves up. Some are relaxed. Others like to shout and really get everyone else going. I’m just relaxed.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a shouter. There’s plenty of shouters. Sharpy (Billy Sharp) is a good one. Morgs (Morgan Gibbs-White) too, he likes to shout a bit and get it going. It’s whatever gets you going.

“The music is blaring and that’s part of it. It’s on the kitman’s phone. George Baldock has a big part to play in that too. I don’t mind his stuff. It’s a bit techno.”

Music comes in all sorts of guises in dressing room, just as characters do. It all makes for a successful recipe among a Blades group containing Irishmen, Scotsmen, a Welshman, a Norwegian, a Geordie, a few Midlanders and a fair few others too.

BILLY SHARP: Could mark his return to the side today. Picture: Isaac Parkin/Sportimage

There will be brief joy at each game successfully negotiated as the clock ticks to the end, but also stress. That’s part of the gig.

Paul Heckingbottom is acutely aware of that. A driven individual, if he does not see the focus and hunger he desires from his players, then expect him to soon detect it.

His mood will quickly darken. By his own admission, he will become ‘horrible’ and get on people’s nerves. Success is rarely easy and comes with a price.

The Blades certainly cannot afford to be complacent amid an intense play-off race. But they have certain things going for them.

Especially at home, where they are yet to see their colours lowered under Heckingbottom.

Today is the biggest test of his tenure against a side destined to be promoted with Fulham.

For United, unbeaten in 11 home matches – having won nine and kept nine clean sheets – it probably arrives at the best possible time that it perhaps could.

Stevens added: “The opportunities in your career may not come around often, so when they do, you have got to take them.

“Especially with Covid and no fans, we had a good first season (in the Premier League) but the second didn’t feel real, so we want another crack at that and get the big occasions back to Bramall Lane.”