‘Outfought and outrun’ – Heckingbottom rues record defeat

'Outfought and outrun' - Heckingbottom rues record defeat

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Tom Davies of Sheffield United reacts after Newcastle United scored their sides sixth goal during the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Newcastle United at Bramall Lane on September 24, 2023 in Sheffield, England.
Sheffield United’s 8-0 defeat was the heaviest in their league history

Sheffield United have played 4,988 league games in their history.

They had never been beaten as heavily as they were by Newcastle on Sunday – a humbling 8-0 defeat at Bramall Lane that could have been worse, such was the visitors’ dominance.

A painful 2-1 loss at Tottenham in their previous game left the Blades on just one point from their first five games back in the Premier League.

However, they had been competitive in every match, briefly drawing level with Manchester City late on, taking a lead into injury at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and never losing by more than a single goal.

The size of the task ahead of them was clear, but the displays in the defeats provided cause for a little optimism.

Against Newcastle, more so even than the record margin of the defeat, it was the manner of it that was so concerning.

“We were undone by our organisation. We can’t afford to put ourselves behind in that sort of fashion if we want to compete,” Blades boss Paul Heckingbottom told BBC Sport.

“A lot of the things I saw in the second half I’ve never seen here. There are certain things that aren’t acceptable, which they know.”

‘Outfought and outrun – that is not acceptable’

Heckingbottom anticipated his team would be competitive and would have demanded they at least match Newcastle for energy and effort.

Speaking to Sky Sports, he added: “You could see moments where Newcastle outfought us and outran us. That is not acceptable.

“We want to compete. There is still a level of competition we expect. We know they have top-class players but there is an expectation from us that we are here to compete.”

Sheffield United made a reasonable start but seemed to lose all belief when Newcastle scored their second goal. The third followed four minutes later and, for much of the second half, the away side were able to cut through the Blades defence whenever they so chose.

The hosts lacked defensive discipline and showed little inclination to try to change that. On the rare occasions they did manage to build possession, they were promptly muscled off the ball by a Newcastle side who remained by far the more eager long after the three points were secured.

“These results are going to come, we expect them, but it is the nature of the performance that we are upset about,” Heckingbottom said.

“No-one wants to see that. The supporters were first class, you could hear them all the way through. It has been a tough week for everyone, we wanted to do our bit to change that but we’ve failed.

“You can’t feel sorry for yourself. We are ready to go tomorrow morning. There are things we have to address from that, we can’t shy away from it, but the good thing is you always have another game.”

Sheffield United have been in mourning following the death on Wednesday of Maddy Cusack, a midfielder from their women’s team who also worked at the club as a marketing executive.

Tributes were paid on Sunday to Cusack prior to kick-off and during the game by supporters.

Despite the team’s record defeat, the Press Association reported it understands Sheffield United have no immediate plans to sack Heckingbottom.

Former Newcastle striker Les Ferdinand, speaking on Sky Sports, said such results cause boardroom alarm.

“It certainly does. Especially when you see the crowd leaving the stadium,” Ferdinand said.

“Lack of quality you can deal with, but I have to say that for a large part of that game, Sheffield United didn’t compete with Newcastle.”

Heckingbottom looks set to be given the chance to put things right and will have to show that this insipid display was an anomaly. Fight and determination are the minimum the Blades require if they are to beat the drop.

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