How Sheffield United's search for a new manager is causing "uncertainty" in the dressing room ahead of Everton clash
Sheffield United’s protracted search for a new manager is causing “uncertainty” at Bramall Lane, Paul Heckingbottom has admitted, after confirming players “want to know” who will be in charge of the club next season.
Two months after parting company with Chris Wilder who twice led them to promotion after being appointed in 2016, United have still yet to reveal the identity of the 53-year-old’s successor with an appointment set to be made following next weekend’s final match of the Premier League campaign.
After being handed the role on an interim basis before United’s relegation from the top-flight became official, Heckingbottom appeared to suggest he is no longer in the running to replace Wilder despite recently being named as a contender by chief executive Steve Bettis.
Slavisa Jokanonic, previously of Watford and Fulham, is known to have been invited for talks about the vacancy while Jan van Winckel, owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s footballing advisor, admires Oostende head coach Alexander Blessin. However, the German is unlikely to qualify for a work permit.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s visit to Everton, United’s penultimate away match of the 2020/21 fixture schedule, Heckingbottom said: “There’s bound to be uncertainty, especially when you think that for a long period of time we had absolute certainty. But it will sort itself out soon enough, and then it’s properly sorted.
“We don’t know the appointment. No one does. But in terms of how we work, we can’t worry about that.”
“Futures are up in the air,” he continued, revealing striker Oli Burke is set to miss United’s remaining games against Carlo Ancelottit’s side, Newcastle and Burnley with a fractured foot. “Players want to know, of course they do. I would if I was one of them.
“They’ll be wondering who it is going to be, who will be picking the team and if they are their type of player.
“But it won’t have a bearing on the future of the club. It will come in the close season, and then we can hit the ground running.”
Heckingbottom, who enjoyed spells in charge of Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian before accepting a position with United’s under-23 squad, was named last month as being a potential successor for Wilder in a statement issued to the media by Bettis. However, despite being asked to help plot United’s recovery strategy moving forward, it was noticeable how many times he referred to resuming work at the Steelphalt Academy during yesterday’s pre-match briefing.
“II said I’d step up, and that was that,” he explained. “I know what I’ll be doing (next season) as far as I’m aware. The focus shifted a little after we beat Brighton and U was put on the shortlist.
“The questions that were being put to me changed then, yes. The manner of them was different.”
"But, like I say, as far as I’m aware I know what I’ll be doing,” Heckingbottom added. “I enjoy it. I enjoyed what I was doing before, just as I’m enjoying doing this.”