Leeds are on the brink of appointing Barnsley head-coach Paul Heckingbottom just 24 hours after sacking Thomas Christiansen. The Barnsley-born coach is set to join the club after Leeds triggered the £500k release clause this afternoon. He is currently discussing the terms of his deal at Elland Road and an announcement is expected tomorrow morning. I have spoken to Barnsley fan Chris Johnson about his thoughts on Paul Heckingbottom and it gives us a brilliant insight into how he works.
1. Heckingbottom to Leeds, initial feelings?
1. “Big loss to the club and the town. We were falling for years really, lacking an identity, stockpiling mercenary ageing players. Lee Johnson after a terrible run started to turn it around with a few wins then Hecky took over and we never looked back. Bottom four of league One to a promotion in the play-offs at Wembley. Along with a JPT Trophy win also at Wembley in the same period of time.
He gave us back some pride and as the saying goes ‘one of own’ was delivering what every fan wants, a young hungry attacking side. Last season we were good, very good really. For a newly promoted team. The board at the time pulled the rug from under him and sold out best players. We have carried on selling and not replacing and now we are struggling.”
2. Many Leeds fans aren’t happy some like myself are, what would you say to those who aren’t happy with this appointment?
2. “I’d say you have given managers like Warnock, Blackwell, Evans, Hockaday, Milanic and Christiansen the job in the last 4 years and come away with nothing. Here is a local(ish) manager who has earned his stripes and performed far above what was expected. Maybe it’s time to start a clean slate and look at him for what he is. With the right backing and time he will give the job everything and I’m not sure you could say that about the names I mentioned above.”
3. Style, formation. What can we expect from his short and longer term?
3. “When we were in league one with good players he played 4-4-2 with attacking wingers and we went at teams with pace home and away. Back in the championship against bigger teams he has played 1 up top and 3 in behind then 2 sitting midfielders. Depends on the personnel I suppose.”
4. What sort of a person is he off the pitch?
4. “Can only say from what I have witnessed in person and he is a genuine down to earth bloke. Says it as it is on and off camera. Big family man.”
5. Leeds have spent a lot of money on the development squad this season, is Heckingbottom the man to bring these players into the first-team?
5. “Heckingbottom started in the Barnsley Academy so knows how it works. He has had no problem with promoting players when he sees fit.”
6. In your opinion what is his biggest strength and his biggest weakness?
6. “Strength – Building a team and an atmosphere that for a time was unbreakable. The players seemed to buy in to everything he did at Barnsley.”
“Weakness – Probably not had the best 6 months tactically, you could put that down to having new players constantly brought in so not being able to get a settled team.”
7. In your opinion, will he succeed at Leeds United?
7. “That’s the magic question. If he was given time I would say Yes because Leeds have some very good young players. If he could work with them and build a team/squad that all plays together then yes he could succeed. However I can also see him being chased out of there by the close season. Looking at Leeds past 6/7 years there is no consistency, so I fear he has to hit the ground running.”
8. If you could compare him to any manager in the world in terms of likeness in all aspects of management who and why?
8. “That’s hard. I would say you could Possibly look at Eddie Howe at Bournemouth. Ex-player with lower league promotion and success. I know I keep saying it but if there isn’t time on offer it’s a pointless appointment.”
9. If things are going wrong on the pitch, will he take action quickly? It’s been our main issue this season.
9. “Before this season he did that with great success, this year we haven’t had the numbers or the quality to make those game defining changes. If he trusts the players on the bench he will use them whether it’s the 15th minute or the 85th.”
10. Describe him in 3 words
10. “Focussed Talented And Potential. I would of had Loyal in there too 12 hours ago.”
“Overall I would like to add that the LUFC fans need to forget all that rubbish about his comments in the media. It’s all banter between teams in a derby game.”
A huge thank you to Chris for taking the time to give us such detailed answers on Heckingbottom. Losing a manager isn’t easy if you don’t want him to go and to a local rival is pretty grim so hats off for providing such an insight to us on him.