Under-pressure Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom says 'I can walk out of here with my head held high' as he questions players

A dismal Sheffield United performance moved Paul Heckingbottom a step closer to the sack but the Blades manager insisted that unlike some of his players, he could leave Turf Moor having known he had done his job.

Needing a response to last week's feeble 3-0 defeat at Bournemouth, Heckingbottom's team gave exactly the wrong one, conceding inside 15 seconds on their way to a 5-0 defeat which saw key striker Oli McBurnie sent off in the first half.

Heckingbottom said he shared the anger of fans who chanted "You're not fit to wear the shirt." Tellingly, after the fifth goal went in, a pocket also added "We want Hecky out!"

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The manager’s future has been openly debated for some time with the Blades becoming the last team to record a Premier League win this season. They have five points from their opening 14 matches and have now taken Burnley's place at the bottom of the table.

The former Barnsley and Leeds United manager knows he is under pressure, but said he was giving all he had. He questioned whether some of his players had.

"I've had this now since the beginning of September," insisted Heckingbottom. "I can walk out of this stadium with my head held high.

"I know how hard I work at the club and that won't change. I'll make sure the staff do the same. We'll continue to give everything we've got with what we've got. That's won't change,

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"As I said the first time I got asked this however many months ago, you're asking the wrong person.

UNDER PRESSURE: Sheffield United manager Paul HeckingbottomUNDER PRESSURE: Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom
UNDER PRESSURE: Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom

"If the fans start changing (their mood) it changes the dynamic, it doesn't change how I feel or my job.

"When you've been in it long enough, whether you're a player getting the stick, a manager... I've just said to the players I can walk out of here with my head held high, I know I can.

"But you can't kid people. That's what I'm saying to the players now.

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"The fans are right to shout and say that wasn't good enough. I was almost signing along with them at one point.

"They’re probably almost as angry as I am.

"We picked a team with experience, physicality to impose ourselves on Burnley which they would have been expecting and then we dangled two legs in two tackles in the first 30 seconds and we're 1-0 down.

"The second goal's not much better from our point of view in how we defended and by half-time we're down to 10 men.

"Burnley would not have been expecting a game like that and neither was I. That's decided the game."

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Heckingbottom, who made four substitutions before the start of the second half – George Baldock's due to injury – questioned the spirt shown by his side, who conceded a simple second goal to Jacob Bruun Larssen on the half-hour and had McBurnie sent off in first-half stoppage-time.

Zeki Amdouni and Luca Koleosho scored two minutes apart – Koleosho hit the woodwork in between – before Josh Brownhill added the fifth.

Asked if Jay Rodriguez's early goal had undone his plans, Hecingbottom replied: "It does if you allow it to. Giving them a one-goal headstart is all we've done, as frustrated and angry as I am with the nature of it.

"But you can't kid anyone when you're on the pitch, certainly not the fans. There were moments in that game where we were second best in terms of competing.

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"In this league, regardless of the level, we all know the step up in level and if you're not good enough because that step up's too big, you can hold your hands up, but if you want a career at this level, if you want to stay here as a group or as an individual you have to embrace the league and embrace the challenge of it.

"People know who's playing without fear and playing with the freedom and excitement the Premier League should bring."

McBurnie was sent off for twice throwing elbows at Dara O'Shea, picking up a booking each time. The striker is the first Premier League player sent off twice this season.

"He's let me down, he knows he has," said Heckingbottom.

The Blades are back in action at home to Liverpool on Wednesday.

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