Paul Heckingbottom expects Sheffield United to be challenging for promotion next season in the Sky Bet Championship.
After overseeing the Blades’ final 10 matches of a troubled campaign as interim manager, Heckingbottom believes he has seen enough from the players to suggest they are capable of making an immediate return to the Premier League following relegation.
The 43-year-old, who is likely return to his role as under-23 boss, earned three wins from his nine league games in charge – including Sunday’s final-day success against Burnley.
Heckingbottom again refused to be drawn on whether he is a contender to be manager on a permanent basis when he was asked about it after the match, but he was more committal when asked what his message to the squad was in the dressing room afterwards, saying: “I just talked about next season. I said there’s enough in here for you guys to be up at the top.
“I told them you still have to earn your wins out there (in the Championship) though. You can’t switch off or think it’s going to be easy. But I know this group isn’t made like that.
“I also told them it’s down to them to have that drive and determination they had just shown out there.
“I told them you can’t look for excuses or take them. You just have to go out there and do it. But I know what they are capable of and I know what they’re about.
“There’s nothing I’ve seen, nothing whatsoever, to make me think they can’t give it (promotion) a really good shot.”
After a 19th Premier League defeat of the season at Bramall Lane, Burnley boss Sean Dyche stressed the importance of strengthening his squad this summer – although he accepts it will be a difficult to get the right players at the right price.
Dyche has guided the Clarets to a sixth successive season of top flight football, an achievement made all the more impressive considering it was against a backdrop of limited investment, a protracted takeover and a spate of injuries.
Now, he wants to build on the platform he has to improve next season.
“There is a basis there of a side that can compete,” said Dyche. “We have to layer it up because if we keep getting injuries like that we need reinforcements, we do need a deeper squad.
“It is a challenge. I think the new ownership group are suggesting there is money available. You don’t know how much you need when you make calls about players and they have still got to fit a financial model.
“I don’t think it is an easy task but hopefully there will be a little bit more stretch and a little bit more finance available.
“Hopefully we can get players who can challenge this group and continue to move us forward.”