THE appointment of Paul Heckingbottom as Leeds United’s new head coach was not really a surprise to me.
I thought he had a sniff at the Nottingham Forest job and he was linked with one or two others as well, Sunderland being one of them.
I spoke to Paul way back when he had taken over from Lee Johnson and he then won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy with Barnsley and also got them promoted and I have just been really impressed with him throughout.
There was a point in time where he was doing pretty much everything at Barnsley with regards to recruitment and almost being half manager/half chief executive.
That was quite a heavy workload but I think he really relished the opportunity though obviously you can’t do that all the time because you would burn out.
But he managed to guide Barnsley from quite a tricky situation, where they were awaiting new owners and in quite choppy waters into something a little bit calmer. He deserves this crack at a job the size of Leeds.
Recent results in the Championship for Barnsley suggest he may have plateaued with the players that he had left there. He had a lot of good players at Barnsley who had come through and I think he knew he would be nurturing them to do well and then they would be moved on. That was the nature of the beast there. But I think his opportunity to come in at a club like Leeds is thoroughly deserved.
He’s a well educated man and he has taken it upon himself to further his education with regards to how he deals with people and structures and the wheelings and dealings of a football club and how a head coach works in that kind of framework. I think what Leeds have got is a very bright, young, motivated and hungry manager who quite nicely is just from down the road and has seen enough of the Championship you would think to be able to work out what is needed and when.
Leeds are now seven points off the top six but of course it’s still possible for them to finish in the play-offs. It’s not an insurmountable gap, they are not cut off and Paul has just got to get some sort of consistency from the squad that he has got and also discipline is the other side of it.
You have to look at the last two home games in which they have conceded eight goals but they shot themselves in the foot by going down to 10 men in the first half.
You had to feel for former head coach Thomas Christiansen as you saw in his post match interview where we was almost scratching his head wondering ‘what on earth is going on?’ The buck always stops with the manager, they always take responsibility, but you have to feel sympathy for him because it just seemed to be running away from him.
You can look back at the number of changes he made against Newport but the other side of the coin was that he used pretty much the same team over the festive fixtures.
There are things he maybe would have done differently but I wasn’t quite sure about Andrea Radrizzani almost apologising for the appointment.
The ownership lives and dies by the decisions they make and who they bring into the football club. From that point of view I think you just turn around and say ‘look, this didn’t work out and then we move on’ which is what Leeds have got to do.
But they have got a very tough run coming up and it’s certainly a tough one this lunchtime at Sheffield United.
It just felt like a change was needed at Leeds as it looked like Thomas was just thinking ‘what the hell is going on? Why are the players getting sent off? Why have we gone from a good run of form to a terrible run of form?’
They probably did need a fresh pair of eyes and it’s a completely new coaching staff now. The fundamentals of winning games, hard work and the way they play football never change at a football club but the approach can be different and I think Leeds will find that. Hopefully it will be something that, as an onlooker, will be a joy to watch. I think Leeds have got a man from a personality point of view who will be able to show the responsibility of the role because we don’t just want a Leeds United head coach or manager who is good with the players and that’s it.
We want them to be able to come out and talk at length about where they are going and answer questions as and when they are needed and be honest.
We got that with Thomas, absolutely. But I think you will get a different type of honesty now with someone being from not too far away, something I think the core support of people who pay their money at Elland Road would quite gladly welcome.
Sky Sports Championship coverage: Sheffield United v Leeds United, Sky Sports Main Event, noon today.