Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom will walk into a squad dressing room this morning that is far from the sacred and tight-knit place that it used to be.
Under Chris Wilder, the United squad was known for being one of the closest groups in English football. Experienced players like Billy Sharp and Chris Basham knitting together a blend of younger, foreign, or players simply on the fringes of the squad.
However, according to the Sheffield Star, Heckingbottom will not inherit that same squad. After Heckingbottom was unveiled yesterday, numerous reports and interpretations were doing the rounds. One of which was a piece from The Star’s James Shield, which detailed problems in the United dressing room.
Writing in his piece for The Star, Shield reports how the dressing room at Shirecliffe has started to show some divide.
It is claimed that younger players have preferred to spend their time with the players they already know at under-23 level, rather than with the first-team lads. It’s suggested that while the atmosphere isn’t ‘toxic’, it also ‘isn’t great either’.
At a guess, this hints at Iliman Ndiaye. Given he’s the only player to essentially graduate from the 23s, it can’t be anyone else, can it?
Further, in what is becoming a common and worrying theme, the players are still said to be unhappy about the state of the training facilities. Talk of fallen ceilings and cold showers are well known around Sheffield. Slavisa Jokanovic was also thought to have big concerns on this front.
Stephen Bettis once again spoke about new training facilities yesterday as Hecky was unveiled. However, there was a feeling of we’ve heard all this before.
Clearly, from Heckingbottom’s comments yesterday, there is some legs in this report of disharmony in the squad. The new Blades boss spoke of the importance of moving some players on. In fact, he even said sometimes that is more important than bringing others in.
That suggests Heckingbottom knows there are a few in this group who aren’t pulling their weight and buying into the squad ethos. And that squad spirit and ethos is going to be so crucial for Sheffield United.
With what happened to John Fleck on Tuesday and how the players ground out a 1-0 win at Reading, it felt like a turning point. Even with Jokanovic now gone, Heckingbottom will surely look to harness that good feeling.
It feels like it’s a huge few weeks for the whole football club. And come January, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more than one Sheffield United player moved on.