David Prutton: It's been a tough start but Heckingbottom needs time at Leeds United

IT'S A strange position Leeds United find themselves in with three games left in that they are not troubling either end of the table.

Saturday, 21st April 2018, 9:00 am
Updated Saturday, 21st April 2018, 9:11 am

It’s just flat. There is a little bit more to this afternoon’s clash with Barnsley because you can’t forget the fact Paul used to be their manager and Barnsley are fighting for their lives under a manager in Jose Morais who is new to the Championship.

The effect Paul has had on Leeds has not been smooth sailing and I would just be intrigued to know the thoughts of Paul behind his taking on a side that he has clearly got a lot of affection for.

But from a managerial record point of view it’s now two wins from 13 games for Paul and even if you were looking at a manager who had been there for three years, after two wins from 13 games there would be question marks, such is the nature of football.

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As the season has progressed we have seen what has happened to other Championship clubs, with the classic case being Wolves.

They have seized an opportunity and that opportunity has borne fruit in terms of bringing a manager and players in and first and foremost you have got to say they are extremely talented people. Secondly, the working relationship they have got means that they can maximise their ability to bring those types of players in. The other main example you can use is Cardiff in terms of what Neil Warnock has got from them which is phenomenal. But it’s shown with Leeds that constant chopping and changing doesn’t work.

Garry Monk came in and had a full season but even then, behind it things weren’t quite right, hence the fact Garry moved in because he didn’t feel like his position was something he could do his best in. Obviously before that you had Massimo Cellino and all the rest of it. But Leeds have tried Garry, they have tried Thomas Christiansen and now they are in the process of trying Paul and I think he deserves time. He deserves the chance to go out and get the players in that can affect a game but it probably gets annoying for United’s fans because we can all talk about this but nothing changes, even more so now the transfer window has shut and that you can’t get loans in.

What you have got is what you have got and maybe we need to stop expecting so much from different managers. They can’t wheel and deal across the course of the season and they have got to wait for the window open to do that. I think probably the fairest thing is for Paul to finish the season and then sit down with the chairman Andrea Radrizzani and director of football Victor Orta and say ‘you tell me what you think after this section of games and here are my findings and let’s see where we end up.’

Sky Bet Championship. Reading FC v Leeds United United's head coach Paul Heckingbottom. 9th March 2018. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

If there are clashes between them then you have got problems. But you hope they say ‘we like the way we work, we like what you are trying to do with the lads in training and on the pitch and we can help you and we can facilitate that with giving you the right type of people.’

At the moment, though, it’s just floating along, not quite directionless but Leeds are not fighting for anything other than pride and hoping the season finishes well and I think the fans are pretty damn tired of it to be honest.

There has been a lot of talk about someone like Mick McCarthy going to Leeds, now that Mick is a free agent having left Ipswich but any signing or appointment of a manager carries a huge element of risk. The chemistry has got to be right and the dynamics have got to be right.

Over the course of several seasons Mick did very, very well for Ipswich. He had no investment yet he was trying to do as much as he possibly could but in the end he was ready to go, hence the fact he walked out when he did. I think Leeds’ fans would take to Mick and while they might say the standard of football is not very good, a good style of football does not mean success is guaranteed.

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy.

But while maybe it’s because I have got a certain fondness for the way Paul carried himself at Barnsley, I just think Paul deserves time – though in football what is defined as time?

He has now had 13 games but I still think – judge a manager over a season.

He was brought in to take over work that Thomas had done which at times was good but at other times was inconsistent, just like the players, and a manager is only as good as the players he has got to work with.

It’s also about trying to untangle what is going on beneath the surface as there are so many different aspects to it and there are obviously big question marks across the board about the overall standard of the squad, the depth of the squad and the investment, while it should obviously be remembered that Andrea bought the ground back. All I would say is that Paul is one of the most ambitious managers I have met and he has got a steel to him that shows that he wants to be extremely good at what he does. He is a young, ambitious Yorkshireman who did well at Barnsley but he has got to start doing well at Leeds.

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock celebrates on the touchline as Cardiff score an equalising goal during the Championship match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday April 2, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Sheff Utd. Photo credit should read: Richard Sellers/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications

There is no crystal ball but Paul’s approach in trying to get players to compete in that division will give himself half a chance. But football doesn’t sit comfortably with trying to work with foresight. It could be that come Christmas time Leeds are top of the league and the board are saying ‘he just needed a bit of time to sort it out.’ On the flip side of it, they might have had another two managers by then.

Sky Bet Championship. Reading FC v Leeds United United's head coach Paul Heckingbottom. 9th March 2018. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe
Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy.
Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock celebrates on the touchline as Cardiff score an equalising goal during the Championship match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday April 2, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Sheff Utd. Photo credit should read: Richard Sellers/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications