Sheffield United: What shaped Paul Heckingbottom's reign, as he prepares to celebrate one year in charge

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Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United manager, has admitted the spell he spent in caretaker charge of the Championship club two seasons ago proved invaluable when he was eventually handed the reins on a permanent basis.

As he prepares to celebrate the first anniversary of his appointment, which saw him replace former Fulham and Watford chief Slavisa Jokanovic, the 45-year-old confirmed the knowledge he possessed after previously working with the squad helped solve some of the problems he inherited.

Having initially joined United as their under-23’s head coach, Heckingbottom had earlier stepped into the breach when Jokanovic’s predecessor Chris Wilder left Bramall Lane following a series of public disagreements with the board. Although it proved to be a gruelling experience, as United spiralled out of the Premier League, Heckingbottom has confirmed it meant he was better prepared to take over when Jokanovic departed.

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“It gave me a head start, because I already knew most of the lads and what they were about,” he told The Star. “I understood what they wanted and, just as importantly, they knew what I wanted too. I got to know the lads as people as well as footballers. But they also got to know me and so there were no great surprises.”

Thirteen of the 18 players Heckingbottom named on his team sheet for the final match of the 2020/21 campaign were still at the club when he was unveiled as Jokanovic’s successor.

“We’ve tried to put our own mark on things,” Heckingbottom added. “But we also know the ways of playing that suits these lads and so it made sense to base what we do around those.”