The criticism dished out by Andrea Radrizzani yesterday did not stretch as far as Paul Heckingbottom’s door. Radrizzani has lost patience with the industry in Leeds United’s dressing room, but in Heckingbottom he still sees a capable head coach.
The opening weeks of Heckingbottom’s tenure at Elland Road have not been kind to him, yielding one win in seven and leaving Leeds three places farther down the Championship than they were when Thomas Christiansen was sacked, but Radrizzani appears content with the 40-year-old’s impact so far.
Leeds moved quickly to appoint Heckingbottom and paid a £500,000 compensation fee to buy him out of a newly-signed contract at Barnsley after dismissing Christiansen on February 3. Christiansen was new to England, a man who had never experienced the Football League previously, and Leeds liked the contrast in Heckingbottom’s resume: familiar with the Championship, as a player and a coach, and rated by others in the game as a manager with talent.
Speaking to Talksport yesterday, Radrizzani tore into United’s players for allowing their season to collapse with a run of one win in 14 matches, openly questioning their commitment and effort.
But asked about Heckingbottom, United’s chairman said: “I’m pleased with this choice, particularly with his leadership, his communication skills and his motivation.
“Obviously he like everybody needs to prove that he deserves this club. As I say about myself and the players, he is in the same boat. He needs to prove himself but I’m convinced that he can be a good coach for the club, even though he’s young and might lack a bit of experience.
“He can close this gap with motivation and the leadership he’s already shown. Hopefully he will get better results in the next games.”
Radrizzani himself has a short track record in English football and his initial investment in Leeds, the purchase of a 50 per cent stake in 2016, was his first step into club ownership. A full buy-out of former United owner Massimo Cellino followed last May.
Radrizzani courted favour with the club’s support initially, repurchasing Elland Road and overseeing season-ticket sales in excess of 20,000, but the club’s recruitment and scouting network has been called into question with Heckingbottom’s squad drifting towards a disappointing league finish.
The Italian said: “I’m the first to be taking responsibility and questioned about the season. I’ve made mistakes.
“We need to understand which mistakes we have done and try to undo them – me first and the management and the players. We need to work for a solution to be better.”