By Heck – Leeds closing in on Barnsley boss as Christiansen’s replacement
Monday, 5th Feb 2018 20:06 by Tim Whelan
Leeds fans were hoping to get one of the biggest names in football as the next head coach, but it looks like we’ve got one of the longest, in the shape of Barnsley manager Paul Heckingbottom.
Heckingbottom signed a new contract following the recent takeover of Barnsley, but that had a release clause if sufficient compensation was offered, and tonight the Yorkshire Post are reporting that Leeds are about to activate that clause. Negotiations are ongoing, and an announcement is expected in time for Heckingbottom to take training tomorrow.
The Heck grew up as a Barnsley supporter and played for the club between 2006 and 2008 and has been manager at Oakwell since 2016. Despite having to sell key players on a regular basis he took Barnsley to promotion via the League One play-offs in his first six months in the job and also won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Barnsley finished 14th in the Championship last season but have found life harder this time round and are fourth from bottom after one win from 16 games. That sort of run sounds horribly familiar to us (as Yorkshire football in general endures a miserable 2018 so far) and some Leeds fans have questioned the wisdom of appointing a manger whose current club is so far down the table.
But that concern overlooks the huge disparity in resources between Leeds and Barnsley, and Heckingbottom is thought of as one of the brightest young English managers currently in the game. He wisely turned down the chance to replace Simon Grayson at Sunderland, and also declined to leave Barnsley when the Nottingham Forest job became available.
So it remains to be seen whether the prospect of coming to Elland Road will tempt him to finally leave Oakwell. One obstacle might be that he would have to agree to become a head coach rather than a manager, having to make do with the players provided by Victor Orta rather than having the final say on recruitment himself. This is said to be issue that caused Garry Monk to leave the club last May.
Another problem could be that he claimed to dislike Leeds United before the game at Oakwell in the Autumn, and then after a rather fractious encounter he accused Luke Ayling of diving (when he clearly slipped over) and also complained about the conduct of the Leeds coaching staff. These comments concern people he would have to work with if he was to take the Leeds job.
Clearly his appointment won’t be that popular with some elements of the Leeds support, but he would still be preferable to some of the names that have been mentioned today. I’m sure that all will be forgiven if he goes onto be a great success as Leeds United head coach.
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