PAUL Heckingbottom concedes Leeds United’s play-offs prospects hinge on a positive result against Bristol City tomorrow as the head coach prepares for his first experience of the Elland Road crowd declaring: “I know the club, I know what it’s about.”
Former Barnsley boss Heckingbottom will take charge of his first Whites home game tomorrow evening when his men lock horns with a City side currently occupying the Championship’s final play-off spot, sitting eight points above 11th-placed Leeds.
United fell further off the pace with a 2-1 loss at eighth-placed Sheffield United last weekend but the Whites were let off slightly with Bristol City held to a 3-3 draw at home to second-bottom Sunderland and with fifth-placed Fulham also held 1-1 at lowly Bolton Wanderers.
Heckingbottom insists United still have enough games left to haul themselves back into the play-off mix but the head coach admitted there was no getting away from the importance of tomorrow’s clash against the Robins.
Asked if United needed to beat Bristol City to maintain realistic prospects of finishing in the top six, Heckingbottom admitted: “Yes probably. Maybe not have to win but once the gap starts getting really big then you are struggling but it’s not a must-win game.
“It’s a game we want to win for ourselves and a game that we want to win to keep in the hunt.
“When I came in everyone was talking about the run of fixtures we have got and all the teams we are playing and how difficult it is and the players we have got missing.
“But you can look at the exact opposite in that the run of fixtures gives us an opportunity to pick points off the teams in front of us and to reel those teams in.
“It’s an opportunity for players to step into the side where others are unavailable or injured and stake a claim to stay in there.”
Former Barnsley boss Heckingbottom is now 12 days into his new job having been brought in to replace former head coach Thomas Christiansen, who United parted company with following a 4-1 loss at home to Cardiff City.
The fact that Royston-born Heckingbottom grew up a Barnsley fan has been well documented but the new Whites head coach insisted his Yorkshire upbringing left him perfectly placed to know just what Leeds United was all about.
Asked if he thought he would get a decent reception in his first game at Elland Road, Heckingbottom said: “I hope so yes.
“I think one of the things I have got going for me in this job is that I know the area, I know the club, I know what it’s about, I know what the fans want to see and expect and that’s what I want to do. Over time, I want to build a team that represents the city and the Leeds fans because I have got an understanding of the area.”