Paul Heckingbottom deserves same status at Sheffield United as Chris Wilder, Neil Warnock and Dave Bassett
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There’s been relegation from the Premier League (twice in the last 16 years). Relegation to the third tier even, as recently as recently as 2011, and six years stuck down there. Overall, only three seasons in the top flight in the last 29 years.
But now another chance beckons to break the mould. And it’s all due to the imminent graduation of Paul Heckingbottom into the pantheon of Bramall Lane’s modern day managerial greats, joining Dave Bassett, Neil Warnock and Chris Wilder.
I just wish I could be writing this after, rather than before, the promotion party billed for the Lane this Wednesday night, but - even if it has to go to Saturday - the timing of back-to-back home games is perfect.
Let nothing get in the way of what has been a magnificent campaign for all concerned with Sheffield United. From start to finish, a colossal effort from one of the most committed, together and harmonious a set of players and coaches it has ever been my pleasure to witness.
Heckingbottom is rightly now heading up there with United’s best managers of the past three to four decades.
He has yet to command the affection and adulation of the other three. Maybe that’s because he doesn’t have their personal charisma in public projection - but so what? In his blunt, concise style, he talks sense every time he speaks. Hecky deserves more credit than he has been accorded so far. I hope he gets it.
Like all the others, he has wrestled aside largely tight budget restrictions - with political turmoil on top - to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
But without wishing to take any sort of pin to the party balloons - and may the moment be savoured long into the summer - the common thread is that the club has never quite had the resources to make top flight football stick.
Ironically, it has been a source of strength and unity on the way up that the Blades have not been in a position to buy success like some of their rivals.
But there is little chance of sustainability in the Premier League without an ability to acquire players specifically for that level - which United have never had in the past.
I can already hear the argument coming back that Wilder imported £20m players following the last jump in 2019, but these were for the potential of rising talents on circa £30,000 to £40,000 a week - because established top players could not be afforded on double those wages and more.
It’s such a tough balance because no-one wants to see the club endanger its existence; far better to find longevity from its own esteemed academy rather than raise funds from it by selling.
But it’s clear that considerably more financial muscle is needed at the top of the club as the long-running takeover attempt by Dozy Mmobuosi drags on to the point where its completion looks unlikely.
Some sources suggest the drag on is because the African businessman wants back, as is natural, the cash injection he committed at the outset - thought to be around £10m.
Have United needed any of that money just to meet bills? Would they have it to pay back?
Well, promotion should resolve everything on that score, you would have thought.
But it does not remove the need for United to have a firm base and a strong sense of direction if they are to establish themselves in the Premier League this time.