Sheffield United: What happens behind the scenes when fixtures are announced
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Conversations at their training ground, where Paul Heckingbottom and his team are due to meet for another round of fitness tests, will revolve around their matchday one opponents and other key program moments. The secretariat office is expected to be a hive of activity. Same as the communications department, where press releases should be typed and graphics created for use on the club’s social media channels.
Even the commercial department, which has invited local business leaders to a breakfast designed to coincide with the moment, will take action before returning to their office for a series of meetings and briefings to map out a plan. of action.
“There’s always something going on,” a former Bramall Lane executive admitted last night. “But when the matches come out, everything is linked. It’s like ‘This is it. The countdown has begun. And it is at all levels. »
Once governed quite loosely, with national and regional journalists given an early “warning” to help them prepare their stories, the THE F now plans its programs in the greatest secrecy. A series of leaks, some with accurate information and some not, have recently convinced the organization to keep them secret until around 30 minutes before they are officially released. Accredited newspapers and websites can pay for the privilege to see them earlier. But, for the most part, they depend on friendly managers to give them little snippets before the big announcement. Holders of competition rights, who pay to benefit from preferential treatment, are obviously warned very early.
But what else happens, especially at United, when they find out their schedule for the season? The answer, it turns out, is actually a lot.
“Obviously you know which teams you’re going to face, it’s already been decided,” the source continued. “But when you know when you’re going to face them, you can really start charting your course.
” I am going to give you an example. These days most clubs use travel agencies to help arrange travel and secretaries or secretaries can take care of making sure everything is sorted out. Managers and coaches always have their favorite hotels and places they like to stay. It’s not superstition as such, although there are plenty of them in football. But if something went wrong on a certain day away in the past, for whatever reason, they might want to change.
“Once you know where you’re going to be on a given date, you can put those arrangements in place and make sure they get what they want.”
The Star discovered United had struggled en route to November’s clash with Nottingham Forest, when they arrived late at the City Ground due to traffic problems. Still under the direction of Slavisa Jokanovic – he will soon be replaced by Heckingbottom – the SerbianThe team then drew the midweek clash. But their experiences are believed to have prompted a change in approach when they returned, six months later, for the second leg of their ill-fated play-off semi-final.
“It’s not just overnight stays that are sorted,” the source added. “There are also what are called ‘afternoon stops’, when you book into a hotel for lunch and then sleep before leaving for a match.
“Those also need to be organised. And when you know what’s going on, when you know your dates, you can start sorting all that out as well. The hotel you use for a short mid-week trip may be different from the hotel you check in for an overnight stay.
“Clubs like to have all of this mapped out as quickly as they can.”
When the matches are released, the season always seems much closer. After what is quickly becoming a traditionally slow start to the transfer window, United supporters are hoping this will breathe life into their side – encouraging them to start finalizing some of the deals they have agreed since last month’s semi-final defeat -final of the play-offs. . Talks with at least two targets are ongoing, with one of those known to be a senior international who may or may not be sold later this summer. Another would be a free agent who, after leaving his employers at the end of the last term, received offers from several second-tier teams eager to acquire his services.
With the league on hiatus in November, to avoid clubs being weakened by World Cup call-ups, United will hope the knowledge gained last season, when a series of postponements triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic meant they had only played one league game in nearly a month, will prove advantageous this time around.
“The manager can start writing their schedules, decide how to organize training sessions,” the source explained. “There can be a series of matches, for whatever reason, when he wants to do specific things and now when you know what the matches look like you can start to organize all of that.”
Other departments are also studying the program closely, including those responsible for selling matchday packages as well as ground staff.
“The people who are looking after the pitch know if they’re going to need it for the first weekend or if they’re going to have a bit more time,” the source said. “People who organize programs on match days know when they are going to be busy and when they can have free time. Catering can be ordered and hospitality sorted. Everyone is touched by this, and that’s when they really start preparing for what’s to come.