PAUL HECKINGBOTTOM is firmly up for the fight as head coach at Leeds United, describing a potentially White-hot derby at Sheffield United as the “perfect” beginning to his tenure.
Former Barnsley boss Heckingbottom faces a baptism of fire in his first game in charge through today’s spicy lunchtime clash at Bramall Lane that will be broadcast live on Sky.
Just two points separate the eighth-placed Blades and tenth-placed Leeds who are now seven points off the play-offs after losing four of their last six league games and drawing the other two.
That run of form put paid to the tenure of former head coach Thomas Christiansen who parted company with Leeds on Sunday evening, just over 24 hours after United’s 4-1 loss at home to Cardiff City.
Heckingbottom was appointed around 36 hours later and the 40-year-old immediately faces a high-profile Yorkshire derby in which passions will run high. That, though, is music to the ears of United’s new head coach who insists clashes such as today’s at Bramall Lane are the types of occasion he relishes.
“It’s perfect for me,” said Heckingbottom. “I know all about that, I know what it means to the fans and what it means to me. I enjoy the big games and the derbies, especially. It couldn’t be any better for me.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m hoping it feels like I’ve been here a year already because it’s a unique job to do this and one I never really planned for or was looking for. “Saturday for me is what it’s all about.”
Blades boss Chris Wilder said: “This game against Leeds takes care of itself.
“We’ll have a full house and the support from up the road is going to be a sell-out too. “These are the type of matches everyone wants to be involved in and I know the lads are going to be up for it as they and the fans always are.”