Paul Heckingbottom's Sheffield United star rises in midst of takeover uncertainty - Alan Biggs

There is always someone at a football club - any club - in the right place at what turns out to be the wrong time. For them.

By Alan Biggs
Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 12:39 pm

Or the right man at the wrong time. For the club.

For instance, a manager doing a great job ahead of a potential takeover. Paul Heckingbottom simply must not become that “someone” at Sheffield United.

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Paul Heckingbottom has taken Sheffield United to within a win of guaranteeing a Championship play-off place. David Klein / Sportimage

Hecky has been in situ at exactly the right time - for the club. Now, with a buy-out either close or in process, he deserves for it to be the right time for him as well.

Of course, taking the job and performing it so creditably, will have lifted his profile whatever happens. Whether or not American businessman Henry Mauriss completes his takeover and whether or not Hecky near-miraculously squeezes the Blades back into the Premier League.

He most certainly should not be judged either way on the latter. This management team, including Stuart McCall and Jack Lester, is an excellent one.

What no-one can control or foresee is how a certain incoming billionaire would see the future, assuming he sealed the deal.

Which leaves the club in a state of limbo after this column flagged up a fortnight ago that a takeover was brewing and indicated that the strongest interest came from America, with former Newcastle owner Mike Ashley watching on.

It’s handy to have other interest, not least as a spur to the man in the box seat as well as back-up. Plus there’s clarity now in Prince Abdullah’s willingness to sell, which will not only be to his benefit (quite substantially) but hopefully also the club’s.

Which brings us back to Heckingbottom. What doesn’t benefit him is the inevitable lack of clarity hampering any sort of planning for next season.

His budget was, I believe, near empty. There are bound to be funds injected if and when a takeover happens.

But the summer is short, shorter than ever this year pending next season’s earlier start. Hecky and the recruitment team will already have earmarked targets based on a sliding scale of what they can afford.

But being slow out of the blocks can be very costly when you are competing against rivals planning ahead.

However, there is one thing a potential new owner can do and that is assure the status quo of remaining in position. That is not the norm because those who buy clubs naturally wish to install a manager of their choice.

In this instance, I feel a prospective new owner would be wise to remove any uncertainty around Heckingbottom and co, at least for the foreseeable future. To say it loud and to mean it.

What needs to change is the budget. Right here and now. Nothing else.