Paul Heckinbottom urges Sheffield United to finish on high to impress new boss

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Sean Taylor, PA
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Paul Heckinbottom has reminded Sheffield United’s players that the club’s next manager is watching their performances during what remains of the season.

Speaking as the Blades’ relegation from the Premier League edges closer to being mathematically confirmed, Heckingbottom would like to see an upturn in results in the eight matches that are left so that some sort of positivity is carried into next season.

Placed in charge of the first team last month following Chris Wilder’s departure, Under-23 coach Heckingbottom will stay in the job until the end of May, by which time the clubs board are likely to have identified a permanent successor.

Former Watford and Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic, currently in charge of Al-Gharafa in Qatar, and Oostende head coach Alexander Blessin are both reported to be under consideration to replace Wilder.

Whoever the new man is, Heckingbottom insists he will be using performances between now and the end of the season to shape his decision-making for next season.

“Everyone is watching all the time,” said Heckinbottom ahead of Sunday’s home game against Arsenal.

“Whoever the manager is next season, they are going to be watching this game and the ones we’ve got left. What happens during those, they are going to be using that to help them make decisions.

“So that’s why, no matter what the situation is, it is always vital that you perform.

“Everyone, the young lads included, they have to remember that they’re being watched by whoever is going to be in charge of them going forward.

“If you are a young lad, for example, you come in and do well and that is going to create a really good impression.

“The same goes for the more senior lads. It’s why, what happens now, is so important because it is going to have a huge bearing next season.

“It’s about the bigger picture, we have to prepare for next season in terms of building a mentality.

“But there’s been no loss of focus on this season. We have to try look after performances in the here and now, and that starts with Arsenal on Sunday.”

The Blades face a mid-table Arsenal side who have struggled for consistency this season, with the Gunners facing an uphill battle to qualify for Europe.

Heckingbottom agrees with the notion that Arsenal have under-achieved this season but remains wary of the talent they possess.

“You could say that (they have under-achieved) but we are at the stage of the season now where you are where you deserve to be, for whatever reason,” said Heckingbottom.

“There’s moments where they can really hurt teams and open teams up and there’s been performances where everyone has spoken about them being back and top-four, and then there have been performances that have been questioned. That’s been Arsenal throughout the season.

“I think that has been plain for everyone to see but we know that threat. We have to prepare for them at their best, because at their best they can blow teams away, and try and make them not be that good and impose ourselves on them.”