Sheffield United: Don't expect sweeping changes as Paul Heckingbottom steps up following Slavisa Jokanovic's exit
Paul Heckingbottom is not expected to make sweeping changes to Sheffield United’s starting eleven for Sunday’s match against Bristol City, after being asked to replace the departed Slavisa Jokanovic.
Bramall Lane’s board of directors have asked the former Leeds and Hibernian chief, who acted as interim manager before Jokanovic’s appointment in May, to reprise the role he performed towards the end of last season following Chris Wilder’s exit.
Although sources within the game have told The Star that Alex Neil, previously of Norwich City and Preston North End, boasts admirers behind the scenes at the Championship club, Heckingbottom will to be offered the chance to lead United on a permanent basis if he meets the hierarchy’s expectations.
Having joined United to oversee their under-23’s development squad, Heckingbottom handed opportunities to a number of youngsters during last term’s relegation from the Premier League.
However, he is unlikely to promote a great swathe of young talent into the team which faces City this weekend. Despite eventually bringing the likes of Daniel Jebbison, Femi Seriki and Iliman Ndiaye through the youth programme - before the latter was briefly frozen out because of a contract dispute - Heckingbottom initially persevered with the personnel employed by his predecessor and friend Wilder. He is set to do the same again when Nigel Pearson’s side visits South Yorkshire before next month’s trip to Cardiff City.
Jokanovic, a promotion winner with both Watford and Fulham before being hired by United in May, was informed of his employer’s decision following Tuesday’s win over Reading - a result which saw them finish the latest round of fixtures in 16th place.
However the Serb, who had privately warned it would take longer than expected to revive United’s fortunes unless they embarked upon a major recruitment drive, remained convinced that his methods would soon begin to bear fruit.
With Jebbison now on loan at Burton Albion - he chose to continue his development in Staffordshire after rejecting countless invitations to pick United’s sister club Beerschot instead - Heckingbottom is likely to recall Ndiaye after he was left out of Jokanovic’s plans for the victory at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.