Sheffield United boss reveals what he’s ‘losing sleep’ over ahead of crunch Blackpool clash
Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom has revealed he’s “losing sleep” over his side’s injury problems ahead of their trip to Blackpool.
The Blades could be without 10 players for Wednesday night’s crunch encounter at Bloomfield Road, which could well decide if the Seasiders have a shot at the play-offs during the final run-in.
As it stands, Neil Critchley’s side are six points adrift of the Blades, who currently occupy the final spot in the top six.
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A fourth consecutive win would set up a tasty end to the season for the Seasiders on their return from the international break.
As for the Blades, they’re sweating over the fitness of a number of players ahead of their midweek trip to the Fylde coast.
Five of the seven players Heckingbottom named on the bench for Saturday’s 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Coventry City were aged 22 or under - and four of those had a combined total of just three Championship appearances between them.
Former Seasiders Chris Basham and John Fleck are among the injury doubts, alongside the likes of Ben Davies, Jayden Bogle, Enda Stevens, Jack O’Connell, George Baldock, Oli McBurnie, Rhian Brewster and David McGoldrick.
Pool have injury problems of their own, of course, with Chris Maxwell (quad), Richard Keogh (calf), Luke Garbutt (knee), Matty Virtue (ACL), Grant Ward (achilles), Sonny Carey (metatarsal) and Keshi Anderson (hamstring) still sidelined.
Jordan Thorniley, meanwhile, was mysteriously absent for Saturday’s 1-0 win against Swansea City, with Critchley unable to explain why.
While Critchley refuses to use his absences as an excuse, Heckingbottom believes his side’s injuries are having a big impact.
“It’s becoming a problem,” he said. “That’s what I’m losing sleep over more than anything else.
“We need these players back, because you look at our bench and it’s full of youngsters. When they do come on, it’s a big step up.
“Our training pitch has been terrible this year. We had two days of rain and we’ve not been on it some days. It’s been a bog, so we have to address that in the summer.
“When you go from that type of bog to these firm, beautiful pitches, the change in surface does no good.
“It’s something as a club we need to get right because it is a major issue and you can see it, it’s evident. You can’t expect anything else.”
While Sheffield United were heavily beaten by their play-off rivals at the weekend, they’re still well placed in the division having picked up some impressive results recently.
On the back of a 1-1 draw against Nottingham Forest, Heckingbottom’s side followed that up with a 4-1 win against fellow promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough.
Nevertheless, Heckingbottom - who is assisted by former Pool coach Stuart McCall - knows his side have to improve from the weekend, where their opponents Coventry had a mammoth 27 shots on goal.
“We’ll have a rational response, but we’ll speak honestly because it’s got to be a wake-up call, we’ve got to learn from it,” Heckingbottom said.
“The focus is on Blackpool now. The good thing in this league is that there’s a game every few days and we’ve got an important one away on Wednesday night.”