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Oliver Norwood hails key Sheffield United figure for their impact at Bramall Lane

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Sheffield United midfielder Oliver Norwood has lauded manager Paul Heckingbottom for breathing new life into the Blades after an underwhelming start to the season, as he spoke to The Star ahead of Monday night’s clash against Fulham.

The South Yorkshire outfit came into the 2021/22 campaign among the favourites despite not making any signings at that point, managing to retain the vast majority of their key players from their Premier League era and under the stewardship of a two-time promotion winner in Slavisa Jokanovic.

However, they got off to the worst possible start as they failed to win any of their opening five league matches back in the Championship, scoring just once during that torrid run and sitting in the relegation zone going into the first international break of the campaign.

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After recruiting Conor Hourihane, Morgan Gibbs-White and Robin Olsen in the final couple of days of the summer window, it looked like things were on the up at Bramall Lane and they came back after the interval in a completely different fashion, going unbeaten in their following four matches and finally looking a lot better.

But inconsistency has marred this term since then, not looking comfortable with a flat back four and had failed to look convincing enough under 53-year-old Jokanovic before reverting back to utilising three central defenders.

This switch in his final two games in charge wasn’t enough to save his job, leaving at the end of last month with new man and ex-caretaker Heckingbottom being appointed permanently, a decision by the Blades’ board that received a mixed reaction.

Despite this, the 44-year-old has been able to prove his doubters wrong so far, with his side scoring five goals in the two games he’s been in charge and winning six points from six, the perfect start to his tenure and midfielder Norwood has nothing but good things to say about his current boss.

Asked whether the mood had changed in the dressing room, the Northern Irishman said to the Sheffield Star: “Definitely yes, especially with the results.

“Any football club in the county or Europe or the world on the back of three wins it’s a positive place to be.

“Everyone knew what Hecky was about from the end of last season, he came in and breathed fresh air into us and gave us that bit of freedom and he’s come in and done the same again.

“As a group we have got massive respect for him and everyone has bought into what he wants to do.”

The Verdict

There was scepticism surrounding the sacking of Jokanovic and appointment of Heckingbottom and rightly so, because the Serbian wasn’t backed anywhere near enough in the previous transfer window to add to his squad and wasn’t allowed to reinvest some of the money made from Aaron Ramsdale’s sale.

Not recruiting anyone before the start of the season meant they were forced to work with what they had, which was effectively a squad that needed a lift after finishing at the bottom of the top-tier table so comfortably last term.

In saying that, the Serbian should have achieved much more than he did with the quality of existing players at his disposal – and considering the style of football being played wasn’t exactly exciting at times – this only went on to seal his fate.

Not only were they unable to be effective going forward at times, but their failure to keep clean sheets earlier in the season was also a major source of frustration and proved to be a real barrier to their progress.

So when you take a step back and realise how much more the United players seem to be enjoying their football now, you can understand last month’s managerial decision a lot better.


A 21-year-old Reading FC fan and writer who graduated from the University for the Creative Arts in the summer with a degree in Journalism and Media Production. Other topics written about include politics, mental health and education.

ScoopDragon Football News Network

Article title: Oliver Norwood hails key Sheffield United figure for their impact at Bramall Lane

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