Familiar face at Sheffield United pre-season as ex-Leeds, Barnsley chief Paul Heckingbottom stays at Bramall Lane after caretaker stint

When Sheffield United’s players reported back for pre-season training after their summer breaks, there was a familiar face waiting to greet them at their Shirecliffe training complex.

Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 12:27 pm

Paul Heckingbottom was back in his coaching role after his spell as caretaker boss last season, following Chris Wilder’s dramatic departure in March. The former Barnsley and Leeds chief couldn’t halt United’s slide out of the Premier League, which in truth had begun long before he was parachuted in.

But he is known to have impressed members of United’s hierarchy with how he conducted himself during his interim spell, enough to even find his name on a five-man shortlist to succeed Wilder.

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Slavisa Jokanović’s eventual appointment led to some concerns amongst sections of the United fanbase that Heckingbottom would move on from his role as United’s U23 chief, overseeing a talented young group that won their league title last season before losing in the national play-off final.

But The Star understands that Heckingbottom was at Shirecliffe this week as United’s players returned for pre-season training. Preparations for the new campaign are being overseen by members of Jokanović’s coaching staff ahead of his arrival later this week.

As United’s search for Wilder’s successor dragged on, Heckingbottom helped draw up plans for this pre-season to avoid the Blades being left behind the eight-ball in their preparations when the new manager was appointed.

Paul Heckingbottom served as caretaker manager before Slavisa Jokanovic's appointment: Darren Staples / Sportimage
Paul Heckingbottom served as caretaker manager before Slavisa Jokanovic's appointment: Darren Staples / Sportimage

Although Jokanović reserved the right to alter the plans, he is understood to be broadly happy with them and will meet Heckingbottom and the rest of his coaching staff for the first time later this week ahead of getting started at Bramall Lane.