Sheffield United legend Neil Warnock hails Paul Heckingbottom's "best signing" at Bramall Lane
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Warnock, who oversaw nearly 400 games in charge of United where he won the sixth of eight career promotions, lavished praise on Heckingbottom both before and after last night game against his latest employers Huddersfield Town.
Having expressed his admiration for the work Heckingbottom has performed in “really difficult” circumstances this season, guiding United into the Premier League despite being forced to contend with a series of off-the-pitch issues, Warnock told The Star: “The best signing Paul has made, it’s got to be Macca (assistant manager Stuart McCall). He’s been there, seen it, done everything in the game and he’s such a nice bloke too. Genuinely, I think that’s the best Paul has made because this can be a lonely job at times and a bloody difficult one too, especially for a young manager. It is for an older one like me. I don’t think people realise at times.”
Warnock, aged 74, secured Huddersfield’s Championship status by overseeing their victory over United at the John Smith’s Stadium having inherited a team four points adrift of safety when he was appointed in February. Heckingbottom succeeded Slavisa Jokanovic in post 18 months ago and before guiding United to second in the table - a position they were guaranteed with three matches to spare - hired McCall and Jack Lester as his number two and head of player development respectively. The two men both worked under Warnock during the now Town chief’s time in South Yorkshire. As well as United, McCall also represented Scotland, Rangers and Everton before becoming a manager himself at Motherwell, Bradford City and Scunthorpe.
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United contest their final match before returning to the top-flight at Birmingham City on Monday and, referencing the behind-the-scenes issues Heckingbottom has faced, said: “If he wanted to ask me anything, of course I’d be there for him. Paul would have to ask, of course, because that’s only right. I wouldn’t look to tell him anything, because people have got to make their own decisions, but if he wanted to have a chat about anything then he knows where I am. He’s done brilliant and I’m chuffed to bits for him and United, because I know what it will mean to everyone there. He’s got the place buzzing and that’s great to see. It’s so important too, because I know how powerful it can be at Bramall Lane when it’s like that.”
Speaking ahead of the trip to St Andrews, Heckingbottom urged United’s board to help him begin planning for the new campaign now rather than wait until their attempt to offload owner Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s shareholding within a four week window either succeeds or fails.
“I think they’ve got a great chance (of staying up),” Warnock said. “I think they’ll go well. But they’ve got to get some things sorted first and I hope Paul gets the support he needs and deserves.”