Sheffield United v Everton: Sean Dyche offers the template for Paul Heckingbottom and Blades to follow

JUST as players who have operated to successful effect in the Championship must significantly raise their personal bar to prosper in the Premier League, the same can also be said of managers.

Bridging the cavernous gap between the first and second tiers is notoriously difficult, but not impossible either.

If he gets a moment today, Paul Heckingbottom might just glance across to the away dug-out to realise that.

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Sean Dyche finds himself in charge of a club who have faced an attritional battle to retain their top-flight status in recent seasons in Everton.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

The fact he was presented with a chance to lead an undoubted famous name in English football – and one who have historically operated at the opposite end of the table – says everything about his work at previous club Burnley.

The Clarets shattered the illusion that modestly-sized clubs who are promoted from the Championship to the big-time must yo-yo between the leagues.

After reaching the big time at the end of 2015-16, Burnley stayed there for five successive seasons under Dyche.

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Some achievement and in its own way, it gave inspiration to others such as Brighton, Brentford and Fulham.

GOOD EXAMPLE: Everton manager Sean Dyche. Picture: Mike Egerton/PAGOOD EXAMPLE: Everton manager Sean Dyche. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA
GOOD EXAMPLE: Everton manager Sean Dyche. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA

Dyche's feats also provide hope to Sheffield United and their ambitious and driven manager in Heckingbottom. Something to aspire to, perhaps.

Heckingbottom commented: "You only get that if you can do your job at the club you are at.

"You don't think about that, but think about doing your job right. You focus on you and your group and no other noise outside.

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"If we do manage to win enough games and compete, I'd want to go even further anyway. I'd want to win games in a different style and more than whoever finishes 17th.

TESTING START: Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom Picture: Andrew Yates/SportimageTESTING START: Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom Picture: Andrew Yates/Sportimage
TESTING START: Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom Picture: Andrew Yates/Sportimage

"I'd never put a target on what we want to achieve, we just want to get better. That's it – in the quickest possible time.

"I have respect for anyone who has done it. But for anyone who has been successful at it, it's good to look and understand why.

"Sean, in getting a team (Burnley) to the Premier League, number one and keeping a team in it and competing.

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"He's a competitor. You look at the teams he's had and he's been really clear on how he wants to compete to either beat his opposition or over-achieve as a football club.

"He's one of the ones who has been there, seen it and done it."

A big part of Dyche's skill is not just in terms of his ability to set up a side where the level of organisation is extremely high and everyone knows their individual and collective jobs intimately, it is also about building the right culture to succeed.

Dyche is big on core values. His guiding principles revolve around hard work and humility and he won’t tolerate players with egos.

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At Burnley for instance, his players weren't allowed to wear caps when they walked into the ground on match-days or don headphones either.

In recent times at Bramall Lane, there has similarly been a strong, self-policing dressing room for adults and no prima-donnas under Heckingbottom and before that, Chris Wilder.

It lost some leaders in the close-season, but the art of every successful side is evolving and new signings not just being brought in for their on-pitch qualities, but also their personality and mentality.

Heckingbottom added: "The players we have added are good players and characters and people can see that. We will get better as we work together as a team and hopefully we can share the load to give ourselves a chance.

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"Some of the lads who have left are ones we have so much respect for and a big part of things like Jack (O’Connell), Enda (Stevens) and Bill (Billy Sharp) in terms of how long they'd been at the club. They were a big part of it.

"While we are looking at players and trying to identify the positions of players we want, it's also the personality and character.

"When we recruit and speak to them, they have to understand the way we are. If they don't choose to come, they are not for us.

"If they do, it's a big tick that they get us and understand what we expect from them and they can expect from us. Part of the process begins there. Then, it's how we are in and around the place every day and what we pull people up for and what we try and praise. Give your best, you are fine and will go a long way."

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Mentality will be key in today's encounter, which has a big-game feel given the perception that both these sides are likely to be fighting for every point, let alone every win, in their quest to retain their top-flight status in May.

Heckingbottom is ready.

He said: "I certainly act differently around big games and prepare and feel different. But they are all going to get bigger.

"I'd envisage more and more of our games getting more important because of the league we are in, teams and managers we are up against.

"I think I am better and like the feeling of it and fact there's a lot riding on it. I don't want to play it down, it's only our fourth league game, but it's a big game we want to win and I want everyone to have that mentality."