Sheffield United contender has kept open a line of communication with former manager Chris Wilder
Paul Heckingbottom has confirmed he has spoken to former manager Chris Wilder on “several” occasions since being placed in interim charge of Sheffield United.
Heckingbottom, whose name features on a five strong short list drawn up by officials at Bramall Lane as they look to fill the vacancy on a permanent basis, was handed the role until the end of the season when Wilder parted company with his boyhood club last month.
Although the 53-year-old’s relationship with United’s board of directors is known to have become strained before his departure was announced - something owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud later acknowledged during an interview with a Premier League rights-holder - Heckingbottom remained in touch with his predecessor at the beginning of his tenure.
Despite refusing to divulge the exact details of their conversations, Heckingbottom said: “Yes, I’ve spoken to Chris a few times. We’ve had a chat on several occasions.”
Although United are known to have cast admiring glances in the direction of Oostende head coach Alexander Blessin in recent weeks, concerns the German will struggle to secure a work permit combined with Heckingbottom’s sure-footed performances in front of the media have seen his stock rise behind the scenes.
Already invited to help shape United’s preparations for next term’s return to the Championship - they were mathematically relegated before last weekend’s win over Brighton and Hove Albion - another victory at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday would further strengthen Heckingbottom’s candidacy.
Initially hired at Wilder’s behest to oversee United’s under-23’s squad, the former Barnsley, Scarborough and Bradford defender completed spells in the technical area at Leeds, Hibernian and Oakwell before returning to South Yorkshire last summer.
“It’s a job I love doing and one of the first things I did was make sure it was still going to be open to me when this finishes,” Heckingbottom said, doing his best to distance himself from the United job. “I wanted to get that reassurance because I really enjoy working with the lads and being a part of what Jack (Lester, United’s academy director) is doing there.”
“I came here to work with Chris,” he added. “So it would be a bit strange if we hadn’t had a chat wouldn’t it.”