Sheffield United interim boss Paul Heckingbottom has opened up about his departure from Leeds United and explained why Marcelo Bielsa has been so successful.
Heckingbottom, 43, replaced Dane Thomas Christiansen in the Elland Road dugout in February 2018. The Barnsley-born tactician penned an 18-month deal but lasted just four months in the job. He was replaced by Bielsa after overseeing four wins from 16 games in charge of the club. A short stint at Scottish club Hibernian followed before he took charge of the Blades Under-23s in 2020.
But Chris Wilder’s departure from Bramall Lane has see the former Sheffield Wednesday defender handed the first-team reins. He will bring the Premier League’s bottom club to West Yorkshire on Saturday afternoon.
And, despite some obvious regrets, Heckingbottom remains philosophical about his time in charge of the Whites.
“Of course I was frustrated. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t,” he said. “I still speak to the ownership there, there’s no ill feeling. Right club, wrong time for myself and that’s how I look at it.”
The South Yorkshire outfit will arrive in Leeds staring relegation in the face. They are rock bottom of the standings and 14 points from safety.
Conversely, Leeds have enjoyed a solid return to the top flight. With nine games remaining, they have taken 39 points and are safely in mid table.
Their revival has been put down to the manager’s influence.
Bielsa the missing piece of the puzzle
Bielsa guided Leeds to the Championship title last term. He has continued the club’s upward curve in 2020-2021. They have won 12 and drawn three of 29 top-flight games, scoring five goals against both Newcastle United and West Brom.
The blueprint for a sustained period in the Premier League seems to be in place with the current management. Heckingbottom certainly thinks so and has outlined what the Argentinian has brought to the club to deliver the goods.
“From the outside, you just see the bits on the pitch, the bits in the media, but there’s lots of work going on behind the scenes – a lot of the best work you do is behind the scenes that no-one is able to see,” he added.
“He (Bielsa) has done great. The biggest thing for me there was a good energy about the place, really good intentions to be successful, it just needed some direction, making the squad leaner, the staff leaner.
“There were a lot of things connected to the club had gone through a tough time and didn’t have the energy to take it forward. The club did need a shake-up, without a doubt, and that’s what it’s been given.”
READ MORE: Bielsa sends message over Rodrigo future