Paul Heckingbottom on the return of James McAtee

James McAtee will be available to start against Tottenham Hotspur this weekend despite only having a couple of training sessions with Sheffield United, since re-signing with the Blades.

Paul Heckingbottom told the press:

“He’ll be raring to go. We’ve only had two training sessions with him. He’s another one who I’d have loved to have had in the building all the time. If he’d have gone away and played 90 minutes for [England] u21’s that would’ve been great because one thing he’s not had is football.”

He added:

“He’s excited to be here. There’s going to be a lot of expectation on him and it’s going to be different for him to deal with that but he’s still way behind where he needs to be, he’s got a hell of a lot of catching up to do in terms of game time but I would say, which is the pleasing thing, is he’s come in the building where he left off.”

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – MAY 08: James McAtee of Sheffield United celebrates after scoring the team’s second goal during the Sky Bet Championship between Birmingham City and Sheffield United at St Andrews (stadium) on May 08, 2023 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

In the prior season, the midfielder played a key role in the team’s promotion to the Premier League by netting nine goals and providing three assists in the Championship  [Transfermarkt]. And this was after a slow start to life as a senior footballer.

This time around, he is more equipped for the challenge, but he will have to step up to the quality of the Premier League, which could actually be an easier transition this time around than it was when he had to transition from academy football to Championship level.

The Blades boss is determined to see even more progression from McAtee this campaign:

“He knows what we expect of him and that has changed. He’s got big expectations and aspirations himself and I think that’s the reason he chose to come back. But there’s lots of things we’ve chatted about and what I see is the next step for him. 

“He’s still a young lad. For me, he can improve in so many different areas and if we nudge him forward in one or two areas it’s been another great loan for him. He gets that.”

There will be a big selection headache for Heckingbottom now; in previous games Sheffield United have fielded a midfield trio of Vinícius Souza, Oli Norwood and Gustavo Hamer. Where does that leave McAtee? Do you drop a striker in order to field all four of your star midfielders? I know I wouldn’t. Especially after seeing how well Oli McBurnie and Cameron Archer worked together against Everton.

And the midfield options from the bench will soon look healthy too as Anis Slimane is working hard to be available as a substitute again, and Tom Davies is awaiting minutes now that he is almost 100% fit.

A huge task is on the horizon for United on Saturday when they visit the Tottenham Hotspur stadium, but it’s one they will be competitive and dangerous in, even despite the injury problems. With talented individuals such as James McAtee on the pitch, the Blades can conjure up some magic when you least expect it.



Tags James McAtee Sheffield United