Slavisa Jokanovic set to bring his own coaching team to Sheffield United
Slavisa Jokanovic is expected to appoint several of his closest confidants to the coaching staff when he officially takes charge of Sheffield United at the end of next month, in a move which could see the last vestiges of Chris Wilder’s regime swept away behind the scenes.
The Star understands Jokanovic made retaining the right to select his own backroom team a non-negotiable condition during the talks with Bramall Lane’s board of directors, which led to him being unveiled as Wilder’s successor on Thursday.
Despite announcing the exits of goalkeeping coach Darren Ward, Matt Prestridge and analyst Mikey Allen soon after Wilder’s departure in March, assistant Alan Knill has remained on the payroll for the past two months, together with head of recruitment Paul Mitchell.
Wilder is likely to invite both men to join him at West Bromwich Albion, where he has emerged as the clear favourite to take over from Sam Allardyce. If that happens, and they accept, it will spare United the task of negotiating a severance package with Knill who has still been reporting for work on a daily basis after rejecting an offer to take up a technical position at the beginning of the search for Wilder’s replacement. The former Wales defender, who helped the 53-year-old mastermind United’s rise from the third to the first tier of English football, also attended every single one of their matches during the closing stages of the Premier League campaign, including April’s defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers which sealed the club’s relegation back to the Championship.
Admitting he was “looking forward to getting started with and meeting the players and staff”, Jokanovic is clearly not planning a clean sweep of all departments and is willing to inherit some of United’s long-standing employees.
But that will not prevent him from bringing members of his own inner circle with him. Javier Pereira, who worked with the Serb at Watford before following him to Maccabi Tel Aviv and then Fulham, could also join him in South Yorkshire. Indeed, Pereira was touted as a possible contender for the vacant role before United moved for first Alexander Blessin of KV Oostende and then finally Jokanovic - regarded by many as the obvious and outstanding candidate.
Marco Cesarini, previously head of sports science at Craven Cottage, seems likely to step into the breach created by Prestridge’s exit while Luca Squinzani has served as Jokanovic’s goalkeeping coach in the past. He now works at Juventus, where he has held a position in their youth academy for the past two years.
Paul Heckingbottom, who served as caretaker until Jokanovic’s arrival was confirmed, asked Matt Duke to step up from United’s own academy to work with Aaron Ramsdale and Wes Foderingham when Ward left South Yorkshire.
Heckingbottom told journalists he is expecting to resume his work with United’s under-23’s squad over the summer, admitting he sought an assurance from owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud that his role there would not be affected before answering the board’s call to take responsibility for first team affairs.