Sheffield United: New coaching vacancy identified as Blades told 'This is the way forward'

Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United manager, has outlined plans to appoint a specialist defensive coach to his backroom team.

Friday, 24th June 2022, 10:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th June 2022, 10:52 am

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After tasking assistants Stuart McCall and Jack Lester with the responsibility of improving the squad’s midfield and attacking play last season, Heckingbottom focused much of his attention on its rearguard.

However, aware that being in overall charge could dilute some of the messages he would like to relay, the former full-back has informed Bramall Lane’s board of directors it would be beneficial to hand the job to someone else.

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“There maybe more improvements, with regards to bringing another coach in,” Heckingbottom said. “In my position, sometimes not everyone wants to talk to you all of the time because you are having to upset them at times. You have to recognise that and accept it. Whereas other people within the group, if that’s not their role, they don’t have that problem and they can get on with doing what they are doing.

“If it’s something that takes something off my plate then, definitely, it’s worth looking at.”

Stuart McCall, Jack Lester and Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom, who wants to bring in a specialist defensive coach: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Together with Matt Duke, who has been tutoring United’s goalkeepers following Darren Ward’s departure, Heckingbottom has been impressed with the effect McCall and Lester have had upon their respective departments.

Sander Berge’s displays markedly improved after McCall, previously of Rangers, recommended he was deployed in a more advanced position. Lester, the ex-United striker, saw himself being credited with helping youngsters such as Daniel Jebbison, Will Osula and Iliman Ndiaye, now a senior Senegal international, begin to realise their potential.

Despite the cost considerations, particularly during a transfer window in which United are focusing on loans and free signings, Heckingbottom insists any investment in coaching will prove worthwhile.

Jack Lester and Paul Heckingbottom: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“If we had carte blanche, then I’d definitely do it, bring another coach in,” he said, suggesting some members of United’s hierarchy still need persuading. “Those specialist roles are the way forward in my eyes. They can really delve into the art and the details.”

“That relationship between goalies and the goalkeeping coaches, it still gets talked about now,” he added, after unveiling Tom Little as United’s new head of performance. “Those relationships, they can drive performance. So long as there’s clarity and no mixed messages.”

Stuart McCall has been working with Sheffield United's midfielders: David Klein / Sportimage