Manager deserves board to keep backing him
Paul Heckingbottom’s philosophical ‘it’ll continue’ reaction to speculation over his future points for me towards what looks like a perfectly reasonable trade-off.
He’ll accept what comes with being the Premier League’s bottom boss but hopes that swimming against the financial tide to get Sheffield United there will also be recognised by his employers.
That huge first win of the season last weekend gives both parties a chance to continue in that vein – and this column has always thought it’s only fair for Hecky to see out an inevitably rocky campaign come what may.
There was real subtlety in his approach to that when we spoke on the radio after the last-gasp Wolves win and it was only on transcribing afterwards that I saw past the accompanying ear-to-ear grin.
“I’m not the one who can answer the questions … no doubt it’ll continue,” he said wryly in response to whether he’d get a break from personal scrutiny.
“We’re bottom of the league so it comes with the territory.
“First team football is about results. At this club, what we’ve done in the two years, it’s been about a lot more than that.“However, results can either paper over cracks or they can point the finger and apply pressure. It’s part and parcel, it’s what the job is.”
Wrapped up right there in that neat package is the whole debate surrounding this Blades boss.
And I think we’ve reached the point, given a tiny amount of breathing space, where both parties owe each other.
Heckingbottom for winning promotion and heading off a financial crisis and Blades owner Prince Abdullah for not doing what clubs normally do when results reach a record-breaking low.
Call it a draw, a fine balance. But I’m convinced it can serve United better in the long term to maintain some continuity rather than spin the wheel of managerial fortune.
Heckingbottom picked up the pieces after Slavisa Jokanovic’s short reign when the club was in disarray.
He’s made sense of an immensely difficult job and now deserves payback and acknowledgment for that.
The way the board can settle the debt is to keep backing him.
And one thing last Saturday, with all its drama, proved is that United on the field have kept body and soul together with the new players buying in.
As the manager put it: “My focus is always on the staff and players – and the one thing I can control is how I behave and the staff behave.”
Which has been all the more admirable in the circumstances.