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Lee Sobot: Quick decision needed from Leeds United owner Radrizzani over head coach Heckingbottom

Current Leeds United head coach Paul Heckingbottom, chairman Andrea Radrizzani and last season's axed coach Thomas Christiansen.
Current Leeds United head coach Paul Heckingbottom, chairman Andrea Radrizzani and last season's axed coach Thomas Christiansen.
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LEEDS UNITED chairman Andrea Radrizzani knew the importance of getting it right when it came to appointing Garry Monk’s successor last summer.

The Italian took three weeks before taking a punt on Thomas Christiansen yet admitted after sacking the Dane in February that he got it wrong.

One year later, if speculation is to be believed, Radrizzani is creating another big decision for himself over whether to back or sack Christiansen’s replacement, Paul Heckingbottom. The Italian can do without another wrong move.

But such uncertainty is unsettling and the sooner United make a decision the better with Heckingbottom’s fate probably dependent on who Radrizzani could get to replace him.

Radrizzani had been in full control of Leeds for just two days when Monk shocked the Italian by resigning on May 25.

United have not recovered since with the left-field appointment of former APOEL boss Christiansen failing to work the oracle as an unbeaten start to the season proved a false dawn.

Garry Monk

Garry Monk

After firing Christiansen in February, Radrizzani moved swiftly to appoint Heckingbottom within 48 hours but the Italian is now taking stock over his next move. On the face of it, the post-season presents the perfect opportunity for the Italian to assess his options, yet for Leeds the here and now is key in terms of recruitment for next term.

After finishing 13th last season and 15 points off the play-offs, Hull City striker Abel Hernandez, Swansea City centre-back Kyle Bartley and young Manchester City goalkeeper Angus Gunn are three of the club’s principal targets and all three will naturally want to know who will be calling the shots next season from the Whites’ dugout.

If Radrizzani is unsure as to who will be in charge next season then how are they to know? It is difficult to think that the continued uncertainty surrounding Heckingbottom’s future is in any way helping.

Should Heckingbottom stay or go is for Radrizzani to decide. Against him is a record of just four wins from 16 games in charge, eight of which have resulted in losses. Under Radrizzani’s predecessor, Massimo Cellino, Heckingbottom would likely have been toast.

In his defence, the former Barnsley boss has had to deal with a raft of injuries and suspensions since replacing Christiansen, though his lack of effect on United’s fortunes is nonetheless a worry.

Lee Sobot

In his defence, the former Barnsley boss has had to deal with a raft of injuries and suspensions since replacing Christiansen, though his lack of effect on United’s fortunes is nonetheless a worry.

Heckingbottom is very likeable and highly thought of among his peers as a bright, young English coach with a big future, but United have gone backwards or, at best, sideways since his arrival. But whether Radrizzani should stick or twist surely depends on the calibre of replacement that United would be able to bring in instead.

As ever, there are no shortage of names being linked with the post with Venezia boss Filippo Inzaghi linked with the role on Friday morning.

Legendary as a player but still learning as a manager.

Paul Heckingbottom and Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce.' PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Paul Heckingbottom and Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce.' PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Former Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri’s name has also been suggested with the 66-year-old out of work having left Nantes. But even taking into account Leeds’ stature, would it be realistic to expect ‘the Tinkerman’ to manage in the second tier of English football? Dilly ding, dilly dong indeed.

Another option could be former Reading boss Jaap Stam, who Radrizzani was definitely interested in before siding with Christiansen in the wake of Monk’s departure.

Former Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy is another obvious contender along with former Swansea City boss Michael Laudrup, who has left Qatari club Al Rayyan. Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce is another name doing the rounds.

Plenty to ponder and there are those who argue that Heckingbottom should be persevered with, believing the 40-year-old deserves a fair crack of the whip with a full pre-season and the opportunity to bring in new players.

That, though, in itself, could be seen as a gamble should United get off to a poor start and be staring down the wrong end of the table come September. By that stage, if Radrizzani has persevered, the Italian would be left with no real choice. But by then it could be too late. Time waits for no-one, and whether it’s ‘back him or sack him’ a decision over Heckingbottom and a clear statement about United’s future is needed now.