Bristol City manager Nigel Pearson believes Paul Heckingbottom will be a success at Sheffield United, adding that he thinks the 44-year-old will step into the manager’s role seamlessly as he spoke to The Star after his side’s defeat to the Blades yesterday.
Heckingbottom was appointed on Thursday after predecessor Slavisa Jokanovic’s departure, finding the Blades in 16th place after 19 league games after struggling to adapt to life under the Serbian and his 4-2-3-1 formation.
The 53-year-old changed his system after the previous international break to revert to utilising three at the back, but this wasn’t enough to save his job and his successor has now been given a contract until 2026 to take the club back to the Premier League after their relegation last term.
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The South Yorkshire outfit’s current boss took interim charge in March after Chris Wilder’s departure, winning three of his latter six top-flight games with the club despite being unable to pull off a miracle and save them from relegation.
And he got off to the perfect start to his permanent tenure yesterday lunchtime, with goals from Rhian Brewster and Billy Sharp sealing all three points against the Robins at Bramall Lane.
Opposite number Pearson believes the 44-year-old’s calmness will guide him to success at United, despite being given a huge challenge this season in guiding them to a promotion-winning spot after a poor start under Jokanovic.
Speaking after the match about his managerial counterpart to the Sheffield Star, City’s manager said: “He’s a good guy and I know he’s popular here.
“I think he can step into the role pretty seamlessly. The Championship is so unpredictable and that’s one of the beauties of it.
“But that’s why managers get sacked, because people get unrealistic expectations. Some changes you need to negotiate with a calm head and I think Paul has got a calm head.
“I think he’ll do well.”
Heckingbottom has the advantage of working with these players before, which should allow him to continue his fast start at Bramall Lane ahead of what could be an exciting remainder of the season for the club.
Although his predecessor wasn’t given enough time to stamp his authority on the squad, that is now in the past and the ex-Leeds United manager will be desperate to squeeze everything out of the players he has at his disposal.
Adopting a back three straight away is the right decision for a side that seem a lot more comfortable playing with three central defenders and wing-backs, though the new manager’s task will now be focusing on retaining his side’s unpredictability as they rip up Jokanovic’s plans for a fresh formation and approach.
The January window will be important to add the depth required at centre-back and in other positions as they look to sustain a push for promotion, but the recently-relegated side must also focus on the present with plenty of teams in midtable fighting to establish themselves as play-off chasers.
Consistency will be key in setting themselves apart from others around them – and keeping their current system in place should help to produce the results needed to achieve this aim. Finding his best starting lineup in terms of personnel will also be key.