Paul Heckingbottom promised to instigate major changes at Leeds United and insisted again that he expected the club to back him after ending a disappointing season with a 2-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers.
United’s head coach said he would target a squad with “better balance and dynamic” as he and the club turned their attention to an important summer at Elland Road.
Leeds wrapped up their campaign with a comfortable home win against QPR, finishing 13th in the Championship, and the club and owner Andrea Radrizzani are under pressure to address the failings of the past year having fallen 15 points short of the play-offs.
Heckingbottom, who has taken charge of 16 matches since arriving from Barnsley, has faced speculation about his own future amid claims that Radrizzani is considering a change of head coach despite handing Heckingbottom an 18-month contract in February.
Leeds are likely to make serious alterations to their senior squad amid frustration at Elland Road over the performance of players who topped the table in September and held a play-off position at Christmas but have won just four times since Boxing Day.
Heckingbottom said on Friday that he would hold “honest and difficult conversations” with United’s hierarchy and speaking after the win over QPR, he revealed: “I’ve had some already. The club’s clear on my thoughts. I need to be really clear in every conversation I have.
“I am in my mind but this is where the hard work starts: conversations, arguments, disagreements. You have to come out of it all on the same page and make it happen, because you can. As long as you’re clear on what you want to happen you can make it happen.
“I want a better balance to the squad, a better balance in terms of having players who can affect the game when we’ve not got the ball and affect the game through physicality. We’ve got talent in there and good technicians but we need to get the balance of the squad right so we’re equipped for every game in the Championship.
“You want to make major surgery with the minimal amount of signings. If funds are unlimited you can do what you want but it’s never good to keep ripping everything apart. I want to make big changes to the dynamic of the squad, however many we have to sign.”
Heckingbottom’s job has been a subject of debate for several weeks amid a poor start to his reign. Leeds paid £500,000 to release him from Barnsley - a side relegated from the Championship today - after identifying him as their preferred replacement for Thomas Christiansen.
Asked if he thought the club wanted him in charge next season, Heckingbottom said: “Yeah. The club came and got me so they know what I want to try and do, and how I want to set the team up.
“I’ve not changed my mind in how I want the team to play and what I want the team to look like.”
Goals in either half from Kemar Roofe and Kalvin Phillips earned Leeds their victory over QPR, who finished the season in 15th place. A crowd of 30,000 were present at Elland Road, in spite of the clubs’ mid-table positions.
“It’s nice to finish with a win,” Heckingbottom said. “Quite simply, so the players can thanks the fans properly.
“The fans’ support has been superb. Lots of people have been frustrated with how it’s gone and the pattern of the season but you could see the effort, the energy and the commitment throughout the performance. That should be a given.”