Should he stay or should he go?
Thursday, 12th Apr 2018 18:16 by Tim Whelan
Our latest capitulation at Preston prompted stories that Leeds are about to dispense with head coach Paul Heckingbottom, but the man himself has expressed surprise at the rumours. How long has he really got?
The Deepdale defeat was the sixth of Heckingbottom's 12 games in charge, which have yielded a mere two victories. Our second half collapse has led many Leeds fans to question whether he is the man to take us forward, and Noel Whelan was especially critical in his post-match summary on BBC Radio Leeds.
“We’ve seen it time and time again. We pull out the white flag, we can’t seem to fight our way back into it. We don’t have the mental strength or characters or toughness to ride that bit of time out and build another attack. It went from bad to worse. From then on the body language was shocking.”
And yesterday ESPN Journalist Pete O’Rourke claimed that a “well-placed source” had told him the club are already are drawing up a list of possible replacements. And that it’s just a matter of when sack Heckingbottom not if, and they are only deliberating whether to do the deed right away or wait till the end of the season.
But Phil Hay of the Yorkshire Evening Post told his twitter followers that he’d heard no such thing, and that there is much that the club’s hierarchy like about Heckingbottom. He conceded that there had been no improvement under the Heck, though that was partially down to the squad he’d inherited. But “Leeds being Leeds, you’d never bet against anything.”
Heckingbottom himself complained about his bad luck with injuries at the post-match press conference. " Having your hands tied behind your back so to speak through no fault of our own is the frustrating. Just from knowing what you want to put out on the pitch, knowing what the fans want to see, knowing how good it would be when you’re winning games and driving.“
"But it doesn’t matter, we’ve got a big challenge and it’s one where you can look at everyone and how they respond, The players, the staff and how they respond in the moment because some players are going to be really tested through whether it’s been their first exposure to it, more responsibility put on them, more demands and we’ll see how everyone does."
And today he said the speculation about his future had surprised everyone at Leeds United and insisted he would be given the chance to take the club’s squad into next season, saying he should be judged on results next season. The Heck is confident that he will be allowed to stay on and honour the rest of his current contract, which runs until the summer of 2019.
He told the Yorkshire Post “Nothing has changed. Everything has carried on as normal in terms of meetings, planning, discussions for next season. Nothing’s changed. “Whilst there was that speculation, I think it surprised everyone at the club, not just me. As far as we’re concerned it’s just business as usual.”
“I came in here in February with slim hopes of the play-offs and we were chasing that down. That was the first goal - let’s not let this season die out quickly - but it did die out quickly so we were straight onto the second phase of what we wanted to do, which was to start looking at players and getting our plans laid down for next season.”
“We’re going to have to work hard because we’ve seen the calibre of players who are in this league, the calibre of clubs. But it doesn’t mean we can’t do it if we’re all on the same page, over-achieving and building a hungry, competitive squad. That’s the stage where we’re at now. “
The chances are that Heckingbottom will get the chance to start next season, as Radrizzani recently said he was “pleased with his leadership and communication skills”. And our owner added “He needs to prove himself but I'm convinced he can be a good coach for the club.” The Heck deserves the opportunity to show what he can do with the players of his choice, and he hasn’t yet had a transfer window to try to improve the squad.
At the moment most Leeds are more inclined to blame Victor Orta for our current predicament for landing us with so many duff players for Heckingbottom to work with, but the head coach has backed Orta. “He’s been great with me, fantastic and supportive in terms of influence. Definitely the club wants direction from the manager or head coach in terms of recruitment, identifying the areas we want to strengthen and the characteristic of players we want.”
That statement suggests that Heckingbottom is expecting to have at least a significant influence in identifying targets for next season, and we have to hope that Orta will listen to him and won’t sign another group of players the head coach won’t want. Many fans were delighted when Orta was linked with the vacant director of football’s job at Deportivo La Coruna, but Leeds say the club have received no official approach for him.
So all the indications are that Heckingbottom will be in charge for at least the start of next season, but will need to achieve much better results than he has so far. If were struggling yet again next October or November, then he may not get another chance.
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