Paul Heckingbottom admits Sheffield United players were flat when he arrived

Caretaker Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom admits the toughest thing to turn around was the damaged mentality at the relegated club.

The under-23s boss stepped up to fill the void left by Chris Wilder’s departure in March with a return to the SkyBet Championship all-but confirmed.

Their win at Everton on Sunday meant the former Leeds manager has overseen a third of the Blades’ Premier League wins this season (six in total) in eight games in charge.

That slight upturn has put him in contention to take over on a permanent basis at the end of the campaign.

“I could feel how tough it was walking in. There was a flatness about the place, naturally so, and that was the toughest thing to try to turn around,” he said.

“That is a problem as physically the stats are up there but mentally to keep pushing you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t get that knocked out of you sometimes.”

Heckingbottom insists nothing has changed over his position at the club and he is concentrating on the trip to Newcastle, another side who have struggled for large parts of the season.

Two wins and a swing in a goal difference, with the Blades six worse off than West Brom, could present the unlikely prospect of United, bottom all season, lifting themselves off the foot of the table if the Baggies fail to get any more points.

For the caretaker manager it is about restoring some pride and not his future.

“Mine’s clear to me unless I’m told otherwise. Nothing’s changed,” he added.

“We speak regularly on the phone or text messages with the board or the owner but it is about the daily routine, there is nothing specific and I’m comfortable with that and happy with that.

“We’re just keeping things rolling until a decision is made and things change and then we will see what happens.

“That (not finishing bottom) would be nice, of course but that’s us relying on West Brom.

“We want to go and win the games and get as many points as we can for ourselves.

“It was nice for me to be with the players when they picked up three points. I want that feeling again.

“I want the players to work hard but get the rewards as well.”