Sheffield United will go distance and not throw in the towel

Today marks the start of Sheffield United’s long goodbye to the Premier League.

In their last game, at Chelsea, they fought courageously with a Wembley FA Cup semi-final on offer, and came up just short.

Now, although the mathematicians will say otherwise, they have little to play for. They have just 14 points from 29 games this season, as many as they need to make up to Newcastle United in the last nine. Even at Easter, it is hard to imagine that miracle.

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But from the moment he became interim manager, Paul Heckingbottom has drummed home how much is still to play for. Some have transfers to win, the rest must impress the next manager, who might not be watching this afternoon’s game at Leeds United but will see the DVD later.

Looking for signs: Sheffield United caretaker manager Paul Heckingbottom.

Heckingbottom is adamant whatever his team lacks, it will not be fight. Mentally, though, it could be a tough task for some.

“They won’t throw the towel in, no chance,” he says. “But it’s been a strange season in so many ways. When we first went into a lockdown over a year ago players were still training on their own and to finish a long season and go straight into the next one with (virtually) no break, it’s been relentless.

“There’s also been the results this season so it’s been a buffeting, rocky time, and then to lose Chris (Wilder as manager) and the tough last few weeks.

“One hundred per cent they won’t throw the towel in, but subconsciously a few might be feeling a little bit drained with the emotion of it all and that’s something we might have to watch for.

“No-one will be giving any less than they have been doing – you can look at the physical data and just see that – but sub-consciously if there’s that little edge missing, you can’t perform the same. That’s something you have to look for, see who might need shaking out of it and there’s many ways you can do that.”

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