Sheffield United: Explained - Paul Heckingbottom will be a different kind of football manager and here's why
Sheffield United, chairman Yusef Giansiracusa confirmed in the most emphatic way possible, are going to do things differently.
“The role we have now is football manager,” he insisted as Paul Heckingbottom was unveiled as Slavisa Jokanovic’s successor, clarifying the Serb had been viewed as a coach. “Kev (United’s head of media) told me that title is not going to be popular. I told him that I’m not English and I’m not a football guy so I don’t care.”
The press conference called to announce Jokanovic’s departure - and Heckingbottom’s appointment in his place - contained countless references to United’s strategic vision. Listening to him outline exactly what that is, referencing its “three central pillars” on several occasions, it quickly became apparent that he is thinking outside the box.
Heckingbottom’s job description actually isn’t that revolutionary. In fact, before the term head coach became used to reference something else, it was in pretty common usage. But with Giansiracusa confirming Bramall Lane’s hierarchy want there to be “better synergy” between United and the United World project - the global network of clubs established by owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud - the way Heckingbottom works is going to be anything but traditional. Even though, despite the board of directors best efforts to persuade otherwise, he will still ultimately be judged by on the pitch results.
So how are United going to operate? Why does Heckingbottom fit the masterplan Prince Abdullah, Siracusa and Jan van Winckel have devised when Jokanovic didn’t?
The Star’s United writer James Shield can provide some answers.
Previously in charge of United’s under-23 team, although he enjoyed a spell in interim charge following Chris Wilder’s departure last season, Heckingbottom will now assume overall responsibility for all of the club’s football operations. Jack Lester, United’s academy manager, becomes head of player development while Stuart McCall has accepted an assistant’s position. Rather than simply working on the training pitch, something he admits he might now have less time to do, Heckingbottom is going to be tasked with helping develop United’s overall sporting policy.
United will make external signings. But eventually, there will also be greater emphasis on bringing talent through the United World system with the academy at French outfit Chatearoux viewed as being particularly fertile. Paul Mitchell, head of recruitment under both Jokanovic and Chris Wilder, will continue to feed into the matrix. Heckingbottom too. But others will have a say as well - those with a broader understanding of what is happening within UW. Very soon, we could start to see more movement between United and Beerschot - the Belgian arm of the operation.
Heckingbottom and Steve Bettis, who together with Siracusa flanked the former Leeds and Hibernian chief on the podium inside United’s media theatre, spoke about how supporters live to see home grown talent get opportunities at senior level. Instinctively, he has always looked to the academy first when vacancies emerge within a squad. But now this will be expected rather than just a reflex action.