Meet the opposition | Sheffield United
As Swansea City get set 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.
They missed out on an immediate top-flight return after losing out to Nottingham Forest in the play-off semi-finals, but look set to secure promotion this time round.
How’s their form?
Strong. The Blades are unbeaten in their last 12 games in all competitions, with nine of those coming in the Championship.
That sequence has included nine wins, and they have not tasted defeat since a home reverse to local rivals Rotherham before the World Cup break.
They are second in the table, some 10 points clear of the play-off pack with a game in hand over third-placed Middlesbrough.
The Blades have lost just twice on home turf all season.
Who’s the gaffer?
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 Slavisa 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 130 goals now to his name in the second tier.
Over the course of his long career the 36-year-old has also featured for Scunthorpe, Doncaster, Southampton, Nottingham Forest, Reading and Leeds.
He has three promotions to his name – two with the Blades and one with Southampton.
Who are the key men?
French-born Senegalese International Iliman Ndiaye is the Blades' joint-leading goal scorer this season with his tally of 10 goals only matched by Oli McBurnie.
Having appeared for the Blades in the Premier League in 2021, Ndiaye bagged a brace on his full league debut against Peterborough United last term, going on to net seven times in 35 appearances in all competitions.
His form earned him his first international appearance in June against Benin and he was in the Senegal squad for the World Cup in Qatar.
Experienced Northern Ireland midfielder Oliver Norwood is a no-nonsense presence in the Blades engine room who goes about his business effectively with and without the ball.
The former Manchester United trainee has been a mainstay in the team since turning a loan spell into £2.2 million 2019 move from Brighton, with his consistent displays seeing him amass 203 appearances in all competitions.
Norwood has plenty of experience of what it takes to gain promotion from the Championship, having achieved the feat with the Blades, Brighton and Fulham, and is an accomplished set-piece taker.
Defender Anel Ahmedhodzic has won rave reviews for his showings since arriving from Malmo last summer.
The Bosnian – once on the books at Nottingham Forest - has offered an attacking set-piece threat and has four goals and two assists to his name so far this term.