Chris Wilder feels his Sheffield United side's "complete lack of leadership" has been a key factor in their relegation from the Premier League.

The Blades will be playing Championship football next term after a dismal one-season return to the Premier League in which they have won just three of their 35 league outings.

Sheffield United's 25th league defeat of the season confirmed their relegation as they were hammered 5-1 away at Newcastle United on Saturday despite Anel Ahmedhodzic putting them in front at St James' Park.

A drubbing ensued after Alexander Isak's leveller, and the final whistle condemned the Blades to the second tier with three games to spare.

In Wilder's view, the club needs to rectify a lack of on-field guidance if the Blades are to bounce straight back up, embodied by the tough outing at St James' Park.

Wilder told the BBC's Match of the Day. "There are plenty of games where we have been put to bed early but today we should have been 3-0 up at half-time. I'm scratching my head that it was 1-1.

"Newcastle up their game and get a head of steam. Then our old mistakes start to fall in and goals go from two to three to four to five pretty quickly.

"There's a reason why that happens. It's an incredibly young side and there is a complete lack of leadership out there. I thought at times I was going to have a heart attack in terms of trying to get the messages on."

Wilder acknowledged there could be tough times ahead for the club, though he hopes he retains the trust of the fans having been brought in for his second spell as Blades manager midway through the season following the sacking of Paul Heckingbottom.

"It's going to be a tough summer for everybody," Wilder continued. "We have not been good enough. The league has been too powerful for us right the way through the season.

"Sheffield United is a really good football club. I think everyone understands that but it's been a really poor season.

"I've still got another year left of my contract. I'd like to think that the supporters can trust me. I'm enthusiastic and committed along with my coaching staff to get it right. We know exactly what direction we need to go, what the culture is going to look like, what pre-season is going to look like."

Sheffield United have sacked manager Paul Heckingbottom after a 5-0 thumping against fellow strugglers Burnley left them with the second-fewest points ever at this stage of a Premier League season.

It is the first managerial departure of an unusually quiet top-flight season on that front and here, the PA news agency looks at the record that drove the Blades to make a move.

Blades not looking sharp

With only five points from their first 14 games, United have the second-lowest points total at this stage of a Premier League season.

The only worse record belongs to the Blades themselves in the 2020-21 campaign, when they finished bottom of the table. Heckingbottom took interim charge for the final 10 games of that season, winning three, after the sacking of Chris Wilder.

They have a point fewer than Derby at this stage of their record-breaking 2007-08 season, when the Rams finished on just 11.

The other four teams to have five points after 14 games include Sunderland in 2005-06 and Aston Villa 10 years later, who finished with 15 and 17 respectively. QPR reached 25 in 2012-13 and Swindon 30 in 42 games in 1993-94, but all of those teams finished bottom of the table.

The Blades’ season to date has included losing 8-0 to Newcastle and 5-0 to Arsenal and Burnley, contributing to a Premier League-high 39 goals conceded – seven more than the Clarets.

Their 11 goals scored also marks the lowest tally, two fewer than Luton, with their goal difference 11 worse than any other team.

The three promoted teams remain in the bottom four, with Luton above Everton after the latter’s 10-point deduction. With a combined 21 points, the trio are six behind the previous low at this stage of the season by Derby and their fellow 2007-08 strugglers Sunderland and Birmingham.

Delayed start to sacking season

December 5 is one of the latest ever dates for the first sacking of a Premier League season.

Excluding the Covid-delayed 2020-21 season, the last season without an earlier managerial change was 2014-15 when Neil Warnock left Crystal Palace on December 27.

Warnock had only replaced Tony Pulis after his shock resignation on the eve of the season, but lasted just 18 games. West Brom sacked Alan Irvine two days later and replaced him with Pulis.

Roy McFarland’s stint as joint manager of Bolton in 1995-96 lasted just 22 games before Colin Todd took sole charge from January 2.

The inaugural Premier League season in 1992-93 saw only one in-season sacking, Chelsea’s Ian Porterfield on February 15 after 29 games.

Slaven Bilic’s departure from West Brom in 2020-21 came on December 16, but after 13 games due to the September start.

December, though, is a high point of the Premier League’s established ‘sacking season’ – Heckingbottom’s departure is the 32nd in December in as many Premier League seasons, which ties with November and trails only the season-ending month of May.

Sheffield United have sacked boss Paul Heckingbottom after falling to the bottom of the Premier League,

The Blades prop up the table with just five points after Saturday’s embarrassing 5-0 defeat at Burnley, their 11th reverse in 14 matches.

United chief executive Stephen Bettis said in a statement on the club website: “Firstly, on behalf of the board of directors, I’d like to thank Paul for all of his efforts at Sheffield United, firstly as U23s manager before stepping up to take control of first-team duties.

“His professionalism and dedication have been a credit to the club and I’m sure all Unitedites enjoyed the promotion-winning campaign.

“However, after slipping to the bottom of the table and a number of disappointing results and performances, it is felt that a change is needed to give the club a boost and every possible chance of remaining in the Premier League beyond this season.”

Heckingbottom, who was appointed on a permanent in November 2021, guided the club to promotion last term but a torrid start to the season has included an 8-0 home thrashing by Newcastle and a 5-0 defeat at Arsenal.

First-team coaches Stuart McCall and Mark Hudson have also left the club ahead of Wednesday’s home game against Liverpool.

Sheffield United say they hope to have a new manager in place before the Liverpool game with former manager Chris Wilder expected to return to Bramall Lane.

Club owner Prince Abdullah told TalkSport on Tuesday that Wilder was “the best guy on planet earth to take over the club right now in these circumstances”.

He said: “Chris is very optimistic he can save the season, he doesn’t think it’s easy, but he thinks it’s still possible.

“When you look at the table it’s a very special year, a very weird year when it comes to the standings, so it’s still early, the season is still long and we have every chance to achieve our goals.”

Under-fire Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom insisted he could hold his head up high after a number of fans turned on him following his side’s 5-0 capitulation away to fellow strugglers Burnley.

The odds on Heckingbottom becoming the first Premier League manager to lose his job this season tumbled after a humbling defeat, in which a Burnley side who started the day bottom of the table scored an opener through Jay Rodriguez just 15 seconds in and recorded their biggest top-flight win since 1970.

Jacob Bruun Larsen doubled the lead and, with the Blades reduced to 10 men when Oli McBurnie was sent off before half-time, they crumbled in the second half with Zeki Amdouni, Luca Koleosho and Josh Brownhill helping Burnley end their wait for a home league win this season at the eighth attempt.

United never looked in the game, and fans made their feelings known at the final whistle.

“I bet they’re nearly as angry as me,” Heckingbottom said.

“I’ve had this now since the beginning of September. But the one thing I can say is I can walk out of this stadium with my head held high.

“I know how hard I work for everyone at the club. I won’t change, I’ll make sure the staff do the same. And we continue to give everything we’ve got with what we’ve got. That won’t change. But, as I said the first time I was asked this, you’re asking the wrong person (about his future)…

“Of course if fans start changing, it changes the dynamic. It doesn’t change how I feel or my job. I just said to the players in there, I can walk out with my head held high but you can’t kid people.

“The fans are right to shout, say that wasn’t good enough. I was almost singing along with them at one point.”

Given Burnley were two goals to the good at the time with United barely laying a glove on them, McBurnie’s red card in the first minute of stoppage time was hardly a turning point, but the Scot’s two yellow cards in the space of 10 minutes killed off any hope of a comeback.

“He’s let me down,” Heckingbottom said. “He knows he has.”

Burnley’s first home win and first clean sheet of the season lifted them off the foot of the table, and relieved some of the tension that has been building around Turf Moor.

“I think we were so desperate to do it,” Kompany said. “We felt against (Crystal) Palace was good, against West Ham was good. You don’t know when it’s coming but I felt we always believed it was coming so for us hopefully it’s a starting point.

“The performance today was really good but you have to turn it into results. I just hope with the goals they’ve scored today and the fact we had a lot of goalscorers as well, that’s an important sign with Lyle Foster still not being there. Hopefully of the consistency of doing that will remain.”

Both of Burnley’s wins to date have come against sides they were promoted with during the summer. The challenge of taking points of established Premier League sides remains, starting away to Wolves on Tuesday night.

“I’ll have a glass of red wine tonight and then back on to Wolves, it’s coming on Tuesday,” Kompany said. “When we win there’s only three days to enjoy it. But we go again. It’s the same recipe really.

“I see the boys making progress, they work as hard as the top teams in the league. They don’t get the rewards for it at the moment but now we live towards the Wolverhampton game.”

Burnley ended their wait for a Premier League home win in style with a 5-0 rout of fellow strugglers Sheffield United, climbing off the foot of the table and piling pressure on Blades boss Paul Heckingbottom.

Jay Rodriguez needed just 15 seconds to head Vincent Kompany’s side in front and Jacob Bruun Larsen doubled the lead in the 28th minute, with United ending the first half a man down after Oli McBurnie collected two petulant yellow cards in quick succession.

More pain followed for United in the second half as Zeki Amdouni and Luca Koleosho scored two in the space of three minutes before Josh Brownhill added a fifth, giving Burnley their biggest ever Premier League win.

No English league club had ever opened a season with eight home defeats and Burnley could not afford to set that record against a United side who began the day one point better off, with these two starting the day first and second in terms of the worst starts to a Premier League season by promoted sides.

Both Burnley’s wins to date have come against teams promoted alongside them in the summer, but after encouraging displays against Crystal Palace and West Ham, three points offer tangible reward for improving performances.

For United it was another chastening day, the pain of defeat increased by the loss of McBurnie to a needless suspension. There was no sign of the sort of quality that will be needed to get them out of trouble.

Burnley scored the opener with a move straight from kick-off. James Trafford punted the ball forward, Amdouni shifted it to the left and Charlie Taylor whipped in a first-time cross for Rodriguez to head home.

It was the quickest Premier League goal of the season, and made Rodriguez the first player in the league’s history to score in the opening 15 seconds of two separate games, 10 years and one day after he pounced for Southampton against Chelsea.

Burnley doubled their lead when Bruun Larsen got in front of Luke Thomas to reach Dara O’Shea’s long ball, cutting in off the right before passing the ball under the despairing dive of Wes Foderingham.

United’s frustrations soon surfaced. McBurnie, back in the starting 11 after scoring the late consolation in last week’s home defeat to Bournemouth, was lucky to only see yellow for catching O’Shea with an elbow in the 36th minute, leaving Kompany livid on the sideline.

Moments later O’Shea caught McBurnie, who delivered enough theatrics to ensure his counterpart also saw yellow, and Kompany joined both players in the book for his remonstrations.

More was to follow and when McBurnie caught O’Shea with an arm once again in first-half stoppage time, he earned a second yellow card and a head start on the trudge to the dressing room.

Heckingbottom, already forced into one substitution due to an injury for George Baldock, made a triple change at the break as Benie Traore, James McAtee and William Osula came on for Thomas, John Fleck and Cameron Archer.

It meant only half United’s outfield players that started the match were still on for the start of the second half. But it did little to change United’s fortunes and the floodgates opened after the 73rd minute.

Burnley’s third came when United failed to clear a corner and Jordan Beyer headed the ball down for Amdouni to spring between Jack Robinson and Anel Ahmedhodzic before playing the ball beyond Foderingham.

Moments later Koleosho cracked a shot off the crossbar when Foderingham could only parry Amdouni’s shot, but the teenager was soon celebrating his first Premier League goal as he shrugged off a challenge and beat the goalkeeper at his near post.

Brownhill rifled in the fifth from the edge of the box with 10 minutes to go.

Sheffield United defender Chris Basham has been “overwhelmed by support” following his shocking injury sustained at Fulham last week.

Blades boss Paul Heckingbottom described Basham’s injury as “horrific” after he broke his ankle in the first half at Craven Cottage.

The 35-year-old required extensive medical attention before the game resumed and has since had two operations.


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Basham said on Instagram: “Had my two surgery’s done now and I can’t thank the surgeons enough for the fast response to me, the first surgery was for cleaning up the wound I suffered and dislocation, the second surgery was to repair the ligaments and to fit a plate on my bone where the fracture was.

“I’m in a cast now and it feels a lot more comfortable.

“Will be in London still for another few days but then be going home to recover in the right way.

“Trying to stay positive everyday with great family and friends around me. Still overwhelmed by the support I have received thank you.”

Basham is in his 10th year with the Blades, having joined from Blackpool in 2014, and has made eight Premier League appearances this season.

The Blades won promotion back to the top flight last season but have yet to register their first win after eight matches and sit bottom of the table.

Sheffield United have no immediate plans to sack Paul Heckingbottom after the club suffered their heaviest league defeat when they were hammered 8-0 by Newcastle.

The Blades were put to the sword by a rampant Newcastle to go six games without a win on their Premier League return, but Heckingbottom’s job is currently safe, the PA news agency understands.

There has been speculation linking former boss Chris Wilder to a Bramall Lane return, but even this embarrassing defeat will not change the board’s position.

When asked whether he will be the manager for the next game, he said: “Yes, 100 per cent.

“This might be a theme now by the looks of it. I can’t answer any of that, the game, the players, my department, yeah no problem, but things like that you are asking the wrong man.”

Heckingbottom, who guided the club to promotion last season, has overseen a difficult few days following the death of women’s player Maddy Cusack earlier in the week.

The midfielder, who also worked for the club’s marketing department, was just 27 and the club were left “devastated”.

And the boss admits he will be glad to see the back of a horrible week.

There were poignant pre-match tributes to Cusack and Heckingbottom said: “It has affected a lot of people, there were tears on the pitch before the game.

“But we were determined to end what has been a really tough week strongly and we weren’t able to do that. It has been a tough week for everyone at the club and one we want over.”

The Magpies rewrote the history books, registering their biggest away win and also becoming the first Premier League side to have eight different players score in a game.

Eddie Howe’s side, who endured a difficult start to the season, now look like they are clicking and performed superbly on the back of their midweek Champions League trip to AC Milan.

They did not take their foot off the gas in the second half as they racked up the goals and that was the most pleasing thing for the boss.

Howe said: “It has been a great week for us. That is football for you.

“Before the Brentford game, we knew the importance of that game, a massive point in the week and great to see us back to our very best today.

“I never doubted us in the final third, we have got some outstanding players, and we have had a very tough start to the season in terms of fixtures, but today we were ruthless and kept looking to score, which is they key thing.

“We respect Sheffield United and Paul Heckingbottom and the job he has done here but we just had to do our thing and keep pushing and trying to score goals.

“We weren’t aware of anything during the game regarding the records. We were just trying to keep pushing the lads to keep scoring goals, having that mentality and desire that we want in every game.

“We want to attack well, we want to entertain and be good value when people come and watch us play. One of our fundamental beliefs is that we are always looking to score.

“With top-quality players, results like this can happen, but very rarely, that is why we will enjoy it tonight.

“You hope this ignites something in us and we try to repeat, not the scoreline, but the performance on a regular basis. That is our aim, but the Premier League is very difficult.”

Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom says football is the “worst sport” for racism after goalkeeper Wes Foderingham was abused during last week’s defeat at Tottenham.

Foderingham took to Instagram on Sunday to reveal he had suffered from “racism and family threats” after his side’s 2-1 loss in north London.

Heckingbottom said the police are now involved and could not hide his contempt that racism is still so prevalent in the game.

He said: “You can say it’s all social media and people are tough on there and they can say what they want. You can take it away, but it is deeper than that because it’s inside people.

“It’s sad, I think we are the worst sport for it. I don’t know if it’s the profile but we are the ones who get the most.

“There have been big improvements, in society and our game, so we have to just continue being harder and stronger and every time we get a prosecution let’s make those punishments harder.

“I knew I’d get asked about that and when I speak to you guys I don’t want to say what I really think about it. It is something that reflects really badly on football. It’s not Spurs’ problem, how can a game of football make someone speak like that?

“We’ve gone through the correct channels and we have had the police in to speak to him. It’s not right, it’s sad, the fact he says he is alright to deal with it shows how much of a problem it is.”

The Blades take on Newcastle on Sunday aiming for their first win of the season.

They were minutes away from winning at Tottenham last week, before succumbing to the latest ever Premier League comeback by the hosts, and have shown they can be competitive this season.

However, reports surfaced last week that the Blades have sounded out former boss Chris Wilder about a possible return to the club.

Heckingbottom laughed off questions about his future.

“You are asking the wrong person, you can ask me about a player, is he going to play, what’s he going to do,” he said.

“But you can’t ask me about me, you need to speak to other people about that.

“I have no reaction at all. The amount of things that get into the media that are rubbish, am I worried about it? No. Even if there is any truth in it, am I worried? No, because it is not going to affect me one little bit.

“You are asking the wrong person. You need to ask board level about that. I have spoken to Steve (Betts, chief executive), he says it is nonsense and just carry on. It is always there as a manager.”

Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom let rip into Premier League officiating after he watched his team concede twice in stoppage time to lose 2-1 at Tottenham.

The Blades were on course for a maiden win since their return to the Premier League after Gustavo Hamer fired them in front after 73 minutes in the capital.

A minimum of 12 minutes were added on at the end of the 90 and Spurs punished the newly-promoted side, with Richarlison levelling in the eighth added minute before Dejan Kulusevski grabbed a dramatic winner two minutes later.

There was still time for Oli McBurnie to receive his marching orders for a second yellow card and the United manager bemoaned the display of referee Peter Bankes following their latest last-gasp defeat.

“Something needs to be done now and this is not me moaning. I said it (at) half-time and when we were 1-0 up as well. The focus is on time-wasting, so the referees are dictating how we play,” Heckingbottom insisted.

“We set up from the back, then Spurs push forward and then that dictates how we play, but no, we’re just told to play long. You can’t do it.

“Wes (Foderingham) got a yellow card for handling outside the box and then got threatened with a sending-off (for time-wasting) you can’t do it.

“The officiating is appalling and it’s not about the football decisions. It’s just game management.

“My worry is all the focus is on yellow cards for time-wasting and when I talked to the referees, they haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about. They’re officiating the game, they simply do not know the game.

“We need to sort that and sort that quick. It’s ruining the spectacle and then to sum it all up we get Oli McBurnie sent off for telling the referee someone is pulling his shirt.

“We’ve just seen someone lead with an elbow into our goalkeeper who needs stitches and that’s the same offence. What’s going on? Seriously what’s going on with our game?”

It was a different story for Tottenham after a euphoric victory inspired by substitute Richarlison following a difficult week.

Richarlison had been pictured in tears after being substituted in Brazil’s 5-1 win over Bolivia and revealed in midweek that he would seek “psychological help” following a turbulent time in his personal life.

After scoring only once in the Premier League last season following his £60million switch from Everton last summer, Richarlison grabbed the leveller with a header from Ivan Perisic’s corner to set up a grandstand finish in N17.

Two minutes later and a slick team move ended with Richarlison teeing up Kulusevski, who fired through Jack Robinson’s legs to spark wild celebrations before Spurs captain Son Heung-min urged the Brazilian to soak up the applause at full-time.

“Richy was great,” Tottenham head coach Ange Postecoglou said.

“I thought all the subs who came on really helped, but that’s been a consistent theme.

“Yeah for Richy, I think it’s the point I was trying to make yesterday. For him to understand that you try and maintain a balance in life and his football hasn’t been that bad. He’s still been contributing for us.

“Sometimes when you struggle with certain parts of your life, you let it go into other areas, but the football is one area where he can control and he works hard every day in training and really got his rewards today.

“And hopefully that gives him a bit more of a settled feel to deal with the other areas in his life. For everyone, it’s about not letting it overwhelm you and hopefully a day like today helps him.”

Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom said “he couldn’t be any prouder” of his players after they secured their 28th win of the season by beating Birmingham 2-1.

Oli McBurnie fired the Premier League-bound Blades ahead in the 53rd minute when he headed home his 13th goal of the season before James McAtee tapped the ball into an empty net a few minutes later to double the lead.

Dion Sanderson pulled one back for Blues late on but in the end it was a deserved victory for Heckingbottom’s men who will follow champions Burnley back up to the big time.

Heckingbottom said: “I’m delighted the game was good and I’m pleased we won. It’s important to talk about how well everyone’s done all season, 28 wins, 91 points.

“I spoke to them (the players) before the game and usually we’ll talk about the opposition, but I just wanted to thank them for this season, thank them for the last 18 months.

“For the majority of us our journey started last November, and it’s taken us this long to achieve what we wanted.

“There’s been some moments from a footballing point of view when I’m on the sidelines I couldn’t be prouder, they’ll know what I mean. We’ve played well but also with a presence that has sacred teams to death and that’s been really pleasing.”

Blues boss John Eustace said: “I think it’s been an excellent season. It’s been very good. We were made favourites for relegation at the start of the season so to get 53 points, the highest number of points in six years, is good.

“There’s lots to build on of course there is but there’s been some fantastic memories throughout the season.

“I also said throughout the season there were going to be some really difficult moments which there were, but the way we stuck together and got through it was exceptional.

“To get the most minutes for Under-18 players in Europe is an exceptional achievement in the toughest league in Europe.

“To get the most minutes for Under-20s in the Championship is an exceptional achievement. To do that and stay in the league and be competitive in every game we play, I think we’ve done well.”

Before the game, Birmingham released a statement confirming details of a takeover which will see Tom Wagner’s group assume ownership.

The statement read: “After the transfer of shares Shelby Companies Limited will own 45.64% of Birmingham City PLC and all of the St. Andrews Stadium.

“Shelby Companies Limited is a subsidiary of Knighthead Annuity & Life Assurance Company, and managed by American financier, Tom Wagner. Both SPA’s are subject to approval from both the English Football League (EFL) and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

“Birmingham City will remain under the control of the current Board until the relevant Owners and Directors Tests (OADT) have been approved by the EFL and after the completion of the contracts.”

Paul Heckingbottom revelled in an "unbelievable achievement" after second-tier Sheffield United twice came from behind to reach the FA Cup semi-finals.

The Blades prevailed 3-2 in a thrilling all-championship tie against Blackburn Rovers, becoming the first side from outside the Premier League to advance to the last four of the competition since Reading in 2014-15.

Blackburn twice led through Ben Brereton Diaz and Sammie Szmodics but were pegged back by a Sam Gallagher own goal and an Oli McBurnie effort, before Tommy Doyle's stunning 25-yard strike snatched victory for the hosts in stoppage time.

Heckingbottom saluted the character demonstrated by promotion-chasing United – who are second in the Championship – and wants his players to kick on.

"It was a fantastic game where both teams played their part," he told reporters during his post-match press conference. "The lads were brilliant to respond and credit to them to come from behind twice. 

"For us to be in April and be in with a chance of automatic promotion and be in the semi-final of the FA Cup is an unbelievable achievement. It is fantastic, and it is a big pat on the back for everyone at the club.

"I'm really focused and intent on us achieving something and not just getting credit, but getting an outcome. I was hoping and dreaming of something like this and everyone should enjoy it."

Match-winner Doyle told ITV: "It feels amazing. We worked really hard. We made it difficult for ourselves at times, but to be going to Wembley is a special feeling."

Meanwhile, Blackburn boss Jon Dahl Tomasson was left to rue what might have been, telling RoversTV: "We're bitterly disappointed to not get the result that our performance deserved.

"The lads did an excellent job, and we should probably have scored the third goal to kill the game before the 80th minute.

"Football can be cruel, and I'm disappointed for the fans, who gave us great backing. The boys will look back with pride from our cup campaigns, but today they'll be disappointed."

Sheffield United have dismissed Slavisa Jokanovic and appointed Paul Heckingbottom's as manager until the end of the 2025-26 season.

Jokanovic signed a three-year deal to take over at Bramall Lane following the Blades' relegation to the Championship, but has departed only six months into his reign with the club 16th in the second tier.

Heckingbottom, who stepped in as caretaker boss last season following Chris Wilder's departure, has been installed as boss on a long-term deal.

The former Leeds United, Barnsley and Hibernian manager had been in charge of the South Yorkshire club's Under-23 side. Stuart McCall will be Heckingbottom's number two.

The Blades were relegated from the Premier League with a whimper last season, finishing bottom after winning only seven matches.

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