‘There’s bound to be uncertainty’ – Paul Heckingbottom on Blades’ manager search

Paul Heckingbottom has been in temporary charge for two months now.
Paul Heckingbottom has been in temporary charge for two months now. (PA Wire)
22:30pm, Sat 15 May 2021
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Paul Heckingbottom has admitted Sheffield United’s protracted search for a new manager is causing uncertainty at Bramall Lane, with players “wanting to know” who will be in charge next season.

It is two months since the Blades parted company with Chris Wilder, who led the club from the third tier to the Premier League following his appointment in May 2016.

Heckingbottom stepped up from his role working with the under-23 side to oversee first-team duties until the end of the season.

The Blades are set to make an appointment sometime after their final game of the campaign at home to Burnley next weekend, with former Watford and Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic and Oostende head coach Alexander Blessin reported to be on the club’s shortlist, along with Heckingbottom.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s Premier League trip to Everton, interim boss Heckingbottom said: “There’s bound to be uncertainty, especially when you think that for a long period of time we had absolute certainty. But it will sort itself out soon enough, and then it’s properly sorted.

“We don’t know the appointment. No one does. But in terms of how we work, we can’t worry about that.

“Futures are up in the air. Players are wanting to know, of course they are. I would if I was one of them. They’ll be wondering who it is going to be, who will be picking the team and if they are their type of player.

“But it won’t have a bearing on the future of the club. It will come in the close season, and then we can hit the ground running.”

Heckingbottom, who had spells as manager of Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian before accepting a position with the Blades’ under-23 squad, was last month named on the shortlist to succeed Wilder in a statement issued to the media by chief executive Steve Bettis.

However the 43-year-old dropped a strong hint that he may be returning to his work with the academy players.

“I said I’d step up, and that was that,” said Heckingbottom. “I know what I’ll be doing (next season) as far as I’m aware. The focus shifted a little after we beat Brighton and I was put on the shortlist.

“The questions that were being put to me changed then, yes. The manner of them was different.

“But, like I say, as far as I’m aware I know what I’ll be doing. I enjoy it. I enjoyed what I was doing before.”

Blades midfielder Sander Berge has suffered another injury and will not be risked during what remains of the season.

The 23-year-old has only recently returned to action after spending more than four months out with a hamstring injury, although his latest problem is not related to that issue.

Oliver Burke has fractured a bone in his foot and will also miss the last three matches, while Ethan Ampadu (hip) and long-term absentee Jack O’Connell (knee) are others who are unlikely to be risked. Oli McBurnie (foot) and Billy Sharp (thigh) remain out.

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