The boxes Sheffield United asked those on their five man managerial shortlist to tick

The selection panel tasked with identifying Sheffield United’s next permanent manager used a strict set of criteria to identify potential candidates before compiling their five man short list.

By James Shield
Friday, 30th April 2021, 6:00 am

As The Star revealed earlier this week, those vying to replace Chris Wilder at the helm have been encouraged to adopt the same 3-5-2 formation employed by the 53-year-old in order to avoid an expensive and potentially disruptive makeover of the first team squad.

However, with caretaker Paul Heckingbottom now confirmed as one of those being considered for the role, sources at Bramall Lane have also revealed United’s under-23’s coach and his rivals for the position must also demonstrate a willingness to work within a new framework which could see a committee of senior figures at the club help shape its recruitment and transfer strategy.

Jan van Winckel, owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s footballing advisor, is expected to be handed a greater say over prospective targets after Alan Knill, Wilder’s former assistant, rejected the offer of a technical rather than coaching role. However, Knill is understood to remain on staff, for the time being at least, having been spotted at all of United’s matches since Wilder’s departure last month.

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Sheffield United owner Prince Abdullah with former manager Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Speaking ahead of United’s win over Brighton and Hove Albion six days ago, Heckingbottom, who is now preparing the squad for Sunday’s visit to Tottenham Hotspur, signalled his desire to help shape the strategy they will employ in the Championship next term after being relegated from the Premier League with six games remaining.

Another person of interest for United’s hierarchy, Oostende head coach Alexander Blessin, is used to operating alongside a sporting director having left a position with Red Bull Leipzig’s youth team to take charge of the Belgians. Slavisa Jokanovic, who would be a popular choice among supporters, also has experience of this system. But the Serb, who is expected to return to Europe following a spell in the Middle East with Al-Gharafa, is yet to be approached by United despite suggestions he is interested in discussing a move to South Yorkshire.

Heckingbottom, who managed Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian before entering the Steelphalt Academy, has previously tried to distance himself from speculation he could be in the frame to succeed Wilder, who led United from the third to the first tier of English football after being appointed in may 2016.

However, in a statement released to the media on Wednesday evening, United’s chief executive Steve Bettis insisted he is viewed as a serious option.

Indeed, Heckingbottom was the only individual Bettis chose to publicly name after explaining United were also exploring several lines of enquiry abroad.

Blessin, aged 47, is only 10 months into his first senior position and, as reported when it emerged his credentials were being examined by van Winckel and Prince Abdullah, is since believed to have been informed he does not qualify for a work permit under legislation introduced post-Brexit.

Having impressed with his handling of what threatened to be an incendiary situation, that has only served to further strengthen Heckingbottom’s hand as United look to reach a decision soon after next month’s home game against Burnley.