Meet the opposition | Sheffield United
As Swansea City prepare to take on Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, we take a closer look at the Blades.
What's their story?
A side steeped in history, Sheffield United were crowned champions of the Football League in 1899, and have won the FA Cup on four occasions - in 1899, 1902, 1915, and 1925.
After over a decade of top-flight football, they were relegated to the Championship in 2004, once again in 2007, and spent six seasons in League One before finally tasting Premier League football again in 2019. They finished ninth in their first season back, but their second campaign ended with them finishing bottom and returning to the second tier.
How’s their form?
On the up. The appointment of Paul Heckingbottom as replacement for Slavisa Jokanovic has led to an upturn in form for the Blades.
They are unbeaten in seven Championship games, and have lost just one of their last 12 as they have catapulted themselves back into the play-off equation after a difficult start to the season.
They have not lost on home turf in the league since the end of October.
Who’s the boss?
Paul Heckingbottom. The former defender took over as Blades boss at the end of November 2021, having previously been in interim charge following Chris Wilder’s departure with the south Yorkshire club heading for relegation from the Premier League.
A 17-year playing career saw Heckingbottom have spells with Manchester United, Sunderland, Scarborough, Hartlepool, Darlington, Norwich, Bradford, Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley, Mansfield, Gateshead and Harrogate before moving into coaching.
Having been born in Barnsley – and helping them beat the Swans in the 2006 League One play-off final as a player – he started his managerial career with his hometown club and he led them to more play-off success and a place in the Championship before an ill-starred spell with Leeds.
A stint in Scotland with Hibernian followed before returning to his native Yorkshire with the Blades, initially as under-23 coach, before stepping up in the wake of the exits of Wilder and Jokanovic respectively.
Who’s the captain?
Billy Sharp began his career in the Sheffield United academy in 2004. Since leaving the club in 2005, he has returned to the Blades on two separate occasions - in 2007 and 2015.
Sharp made history in 2019 when he scored his 220th professional goal, making him the highest-scoring English-born player in English professional football this century. Just a month later, Sharp bagged his 100th goal for the Blades in a 3-3 draw against Aston Villa.
More recently, he has become the highest scorer in the Championship’s history, with 125 goals now to his name in the second tier.
He has three promotions to his name – two with the Blades and one with Southampton.
The key men
While Sharp tops United’s goalscoring charts this season with 12, former Swansea loanee Morgan Gibbs-White has also enjoyed a fine season on loan at Bramall Lane.
The Wolves midfielder has five goals and four assists to his name this season, although he has recently returned from a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury.
Midfielder John Fleck brings a bustling industry in the middle of the park for the Blades while they also have the experience of Conor Hourihane and Oliver Norwood to call upon.
At the back John Egan and Chris Basham were part of the club’s rise to the top-flight, while Ben Davies has been a regular following his loan move from Liverpool.