There’s a growing feeling in the air around Bramall Lane this week that Sheffield United might just end up with Paul Heckingbottom as new manager.
Heckingbottom is on the five man shortlist compiled by the club. Stephen Bettis confirmed this last week, despite repeated claims from Heckingbottom that he wanted to go back to his under-23s role.
And for a while, those claims seemed fair enough and true. But in the last week to ten days, Heckingbottom’s mood has shifted ever so slightly. Whether that be because he got this first win last weekend, we don’t know.
But rather than simply batting away the possibility of being the next United boss, Hecky’s tone has altered. Comments just this week about why anyone would reject the chance to manage the club raised eyebrows among fans. As did reports that the board were prepared to give the job to Heckingbottom.
Let me be straight here. I’ve nothing against Paul Heckingbottom. I actually like his interviews. He talks sense, he’s taken on a mammoth task after Wilder left, and in a way, he seems to have papered over some cracks.
He deserved that first win last weekend. And he probably deserves to have his name at least in the hat for the job. But that’s as far as it should go.
Why Paul Heckingbottom would be an underwhelming appointment as United manager
The biggest issue facing Heckingbottom is that, barring that win over Brighton and the inclusion of Ben Osborn of late in a roaming midfield role, he’s not really changed much.
Sure, he’s steadied the ship a bit. He’s probably working damn hard too, preparing the players and trying to keep them positive. Let’s not forget, he’s managing a group of players that were down long before he took over.
But it’s not like performances have vastly improved. The system has barely changed. The players have remained the same (albeit we do have injuries). In a nutshell, Hecky has hardly stamped his authority on the role.
The other issue is that if appointed, he’ll be on the backfoot immediately. United fans will, more than likely, point to his appointment as the ‘cheap option’. Something that won’t go down well, and will give fans more ammo to take pot shots at Prince Abdullah.
Heckingbottom, then, would be afforded little time by The Lane faithful. A few bad losses in the Championship, and things could go sour quickly.
And I don’t want to see that happen to Heckingbottom. I want to see him back doing what he does with the 23s. He deserves his job at the club. It’s not his fault that things turned ugly between Wilder and the board.
But this club needs a boost at the moment. It needs fresh eyes, fresh ideas, and someone who fans will think of fondly and have patience with.
Prince Abdullah and Stephen Bettis face a huge call in the coming weeks. But you just get the feeling we are being set up to accept Heckingbottom as our new manager. Why else would he be the only name of the five mentioned?
And as much as I admire Heckingbottom, sadly, he’s just not going to cut the mustard for large portions of this fanbase.