Paul Heckingbottom on his imperfect start to life as Sheffield United's caretaker, Jason Tindall and hopes for Alan Knill
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Heckingbottom, previously the under-23’s coach at United’s Steelphalt Academy, oversaw United’s 5-0 defeat at Leicester City following Wilder’s departure on Saturday evening following nearly five years in charge.
Admitting he spoke to Wilder before accepting the role - “He’s my mate, I came here to work for him” - Heckingbottom spent long periods of the game in consultation with Knill, who has remained at Bramall Lane after serving as the 53-year-old’s assistant.
Detailing events during the build-up to the game, and Tindall’s arrival in South Yorkshire initially on a short term contract, Heckingbottom said: “The owners put to me that he might be coming in. I spoke to Jason, and had a good chat with him.
“To be honest, that was all in place because I didn’t know that I was going to be in charge until last night and then came down this morning.
“That has been going on since the discussions (started) between Chris and the club. I’d love Knilly to stay, he’s been a big part of the success at this football club and I’d love him to stay too.”
Tindall, who is initially expected to serve as Heckingbottom’s number two, will officially start work this week. But he was present at the KP Stadium, watching City run riot from the stands as United crashed to their heaviest loss of the Premier League campaign.
Although news of Wilder’s exit, following a series of disagreements with members of the board, began to seep out on Friday morning, it was not until the eve of the fixture that it was officially confirmed.
Outlining his own imperfect preparations, Heckingbottom, who managed Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian before Wilder handed him a position with United’s youth development programme, said: “The ins and outs of what was going on with Chris, I found out there was a chance I might be asked to do this on Friday, but we had an under-23’s game going on.
“I had a Covid test during that game, and then I was waiting for the test results, which got confirmed yesterday. Then I was waiting for confirmation of what was happening with Chris and got the green light today, which is when i travelled down.”
Asked if he had ambitions to remain at the helm beyond the end of a season which is destined to end in relegation - United re 14 points adrift of safety with nine matches left to play - Heckingbottom was non-committal, saying: “It’s a big opportunity for me, in terms of working with the players and with someone I consider a friend.
“I’m doing it until the end of the season or until I’m told otherwise. I feel a big responsibility towards them (the players) because I know what they’re going through. And whoever the next manager is, I know he’ll be watching their performances.”