PAUL HECKINGBOTTOM says his appointment as head coach offers a definite clean slate to every member of Leeds United’s squad.
Heckingbottom will take charge of his first game since succeeding former head coach Thomas Christiansen when the Whites visit Sheffield United for Saturday’s Championship Yorkshire derby.
Leeds still have three players suspended for the clash with skipper Liam Cooper, fellow defender Gaetano Berardi and star no 10 Samu Saiz all remaining banned for their recent misdemeanours while United could have as many as four players missing through injury.
Right-back Luke Ayling is definitely out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury while centre-back Conor Shaughnessy is another player recovering from an ankle problem. Striker Caleb Ekuban also remains sidelined as he continues to recover from breaking a bone in his foot while doubts still concern the participation of deadline day striker signing Tyler Roberts who arrived at the club having taken a knock.
Heckingbottom will subsequently be utilising the United squad as a whole and the 40-year-old head coach admitted that his arrival offered a definite chance for every player to impress including those currently not involved.
Asked if his appointment meant a clean slate and a fresh start, Heckingbottom admitted; “Yes, definitely.
“I have seen games and played against them and I know players from previous clubs who have been at our previous games that I have seen and then I would be foolish not to tap into the knowledge of the staff who have been working with them all the time. There is always going to be an external input before I come in but now I am judging them as I see them, as I get to know them as people and footballers because that’s one thing that I do like to do.
“I don’t mind pushing the players and I don’t mind being tough on the players but they will have my back and they will have my support so I need to get to know them.”
Heckingbottom has also hinted there will be no rigid formation in his tenure at the Whites.
Leeds have predominantly played a 4-2-3-1 system for the last two seasons under Thomas Christiansen and before that Garry Monk whereas Heckingbottom had recently favoured a 4-1-4-1 approach at former club Barnsley.
But asked if he would be bringing that recently favoured formation to Leeds, Heckingbottom said: “Not necessarily.
“Predominantly last season and the season before I played 4-4-2 due to recruitment and the personnel in the squad. It didn’t suit us so we changed.
“But I don’t get hung up on systems, especially in possession.
“We have got principles and when we have got the ball we will us the formation if you like and it will just be based on how we defend.
“We could defend as a 4-4-2 or we could defend as a 4-3-3 but in possession it may look exactly the same.
“That will be the message that we will get across.”