Sheffield United star outlines secrets of Blades boss's success ahead of QPR trip
George Baldock has outlined what he believes are the secrets of Paul Heckingbottom’s success since becoming Sheffield United’s permanent manager, admitting the Blades chief has a lot of similar traits to one of his predecessors in Chris Wilder.
Heckingbottom took over from Slavisa Jokanović back in November, with the Blades languishing in 16th place in their first season back in the Championship after relegation from the Premier League last season.
The former Barnsley and Leeds United chief has masterminded a remarkable transformation of United’s fortunes, leading them into the play-off positions with just two games of the regular season remaining.
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Two victories will guarantee United’s place in the end-of-season shootout for promotion, while any slipups from the chasing pack – including Wilder’s Middlesbrough, Millwall and Blackburn Rovers – will further help the Blades’ cause.
And Baldock, who hopes to return at QPR tomorrow night after damaging a hamstring at Bristol City on Easter Monday, remembers Heckingbottom coming back into the fold again after his previous spell as caretaker boss, following Wilder’s departure, came to an end with Jokanović’s appointment.
"It was as seamless as any manager change I've experienced!" Baldock said of Heckingbottom’s permanent appointment.
"He came straight in, everyone knew him and everyone knew his face as he still was around the place under the last management.
"Everyone felt comfortable with him, but he's got that edge where you aren't too comfortable around him; you are always training on the edge, playing on the edge. Your shirt is never set in stone. Everyone lifted their game, like you do with a new manager. You want to impress.
"He picked up just where he left off and everyone loves him around the place. I see a lot of traits similar to Chris Wilder with the way he goes about things, but he's also his own manager and that's probably something he'd reiterate.
"I think the obvious change to mention is the formation. Everyone was comfortable in their positions - that's not to say these players can't play in different positions - as a lot of the players had been recruited for a specific system under Chris Wilder for such a long time.
"The training standards and intensity went right through the roof, which is what I, and a lot of the players, have been used to at this club. You just saw that on a matchday; everyone was a lot more intense. When you play at that intensity, you cause opposition teams a lot more trouble."
United finish their regular season at home to Fulham and then hope for three more play-0ff games as they look to return to where Baldock believes they belong.
"This city is such a passionate city,” Baldock told Sky Sports.
“I live in the city, so I bump into Blades fans all the time and they are always telling me about the history of the club. They should be playing at the top level and that's hopefully where we can get them back to.
“They are a passionate fanbase, but also an honest fanbase and they knew it was going to be a difficult season. But we've given them hope in recent times and, hopefully now, with a bit of momentum and positivity, we can get in those play-off positions and kick on."