Wolves v Sheffield United: No ‘free hits’ for Blades under Paul Heckingbottom

There will be a lot of talk about “free hits” for sides playing FA Cup football this weekend. Do not mention it within earshot of Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom.

Tomorrow he takes his side to Wolverhampton Wanderers, fresh from beating Manchester United on Monday, and even with 11 players missing, expects them to win.

It shows a return to the tough mentality which made the Blades such a force under Chris Wilder. No wonder Chris Basham is enjoying his football again, and no wonder he is back in the team with Heckingbottom telling him the 33-year-old defender he wants his contract extended beyond this season.

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He is by no means alone, but Basham represents the values the club is built on.

Chris Basham celebrates with Sheffield United team-mate Jayden Bogle after victory at Fulham in the Championship. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

“When Paul came in he knew straight away how to put them across to the team and he’s forced it through,” says Basham.

“Paul, Jack (Lester) and Stuey (McCall, Heckingbottom’s assistants) won’t let us just settle on winning against Fulham. If you don’t win when we play 11 v 11 in training it’s press-ups and fines, he’s very aggressive on that, he wants us to get a winning mentality, a hunger in our bodies to keep winning and you can feel the frustrations on the training ground when the lads get beaten.

“He spoke to us on Friday morning stood out there shivering telling us we needed to win this game.

“It is a hard way to operate but it’s a lot more enjoyable when the final whistle goes and you come off with three points.”

Basham is unsure why he has not yet been offered a new contract given his manager has made it clear he wants him to get one, but hopes it will be resolved soon.

“I’ve been here eight years now, why would I want to go?” he says. “When my time’s up and I’m not performing it will be time for me to step away but I don’t feel like that yet.

“We’ve had a general chat just to see where my head’s at and I’ve asked him (Heckingbottom) where he’s at. If I can help mould the team, there’s loads of different routes.

“I think it’s very important to have your Billy Sharps, (David) McGoldricks, (John) Egans, players like that, and the continuity of the fans as well – the love we feel and share together. When we celebrate victories they’re for the fans and the club as well.”

Heckingbottom says he cannot consider selling or loaning out players such as Oli Burke whilst he has 11 injured or ill, and is looking to add to the squad.