I’ll be the first to admit Paul Heckingbottom wasn’t my first (or even 51st) choice of manager, but as a Leeds United fan who only wants to see the team succeed, his absolute failure to effect any change at the club brings me no pleasure.

Two unconvincing wins in his twelve games in charge and a 50% loss rate would have Leeds on course for League One had it not been for early season form, which is exactly where he was guiding Barnsley before jumping ship midseason to continue his abysmal run at Leeds.

And while some would offer the excuse of a poor squad as mitigation, I just don’t buy it. By no means do Leeds United have a top six squad, but equally, it doesn’t rank amongst the division’s worst either.

Paul Heckingbottom simply isn’t cut out for the Leeds United job. He’s got no reaction at all from the players, which suggests they have no confidence in (or respect for) him, or they’re so poorly trained and organised, they’re struggling to perform.

His failure to organise would be my biggest criticism. He seems to have no tactical plan whatsoever heading into matches. After scraping a victory against Brentford towards the end of February, Heckingbottom decided to stick with exactly the same team for an away trip to Middlesbrough, explaining that he was rewarding players for the win. That to me sounds like he can’t be bothered doing his homework on the opposition and adjusting his side to face them, which was evidenced by some of the mismatches we had across the park.

Leeds duly lost 3-0, which was no surprise with Vernon Anita played out of position at left-back against one of the division’s best wingers while Eunan O’Kane continued to steal a living in a DM position. Kalvin Phillips was another non-performer who retained his place. All three struggled against Brentford, yet Heckingbottom, in his infinite wisdom, decided they deserved to go again against Boro.

I don’t know if it’s naivety, arrogance or absolute ineptitude, but he’s failed to respect the opposition and we got absolutely schooled as a consequence.

I could accept some of these decisions were forced by availability and squad depth if there wasn’t clearly better suited options available. At left-back for example we had a choice of De Bock, Tyler Denton and the hugely impressive youngster, Tom Pearce, all of whom are natural left-backs. And even if none of them are available (which they all were), Alioski is also a very accomplished left-back. It’s where he’s played most of his career. There’s simply no reason to play Anita there.

I give that example in anticipation of some of the potential counterarguments. I suspect many will argue Heckingbottom is limited by Orta’s transfer dealings and I won’t argue otherwise. Clearly our recruitment could and needs to be better. But again, this side doesn’t rank among the division’s worst. Christiansen’s early season form might have involved an element of good luck, but on the whole, we were beating weaker sides and losing to the strongest. Now we’re losing to pretty much the entire division.

But what’s most concerning is that Heckingbottom has changed nothing. A few youngsters have been rotated in and out, but the shape (disorganised), style of play (poor) and individual performance levels (all over the map) are pretty much the same.

On top of that, I feel Heckingbottom himself is a burden in the transfer market. He doesn’t have the clout of someone like Garry Monk, who managed to attract both Pablo Hernandez and Kyle Bartley on the back of his own career and reputation. Orta is clearly the man in charge of transfers, but top players aren’t looking at Paul Heckingbottom and thinking “he’s the man I want to play for!” Even the players we currently have don’t seem particularly thrilled by it.

At this point, Heckingbottom’s sacking seems almost inevitable. It’d be good timing too, since it allows Leeds to get someone new in before the transfer window opens and for that person to evaluate the squad he has with the remaining games. Mick McCarthy seems the most obvious option, but he’s unlikely to accept the job with Victor Orta calling the shots, though if reports in the Spanish press are to be believed, he might be on his way out of the door too.

14 Responses

  1. Chareose

    Im half cut about this………my heart says get rid and my head says keep him for now because how can you possibly judge him properly given the circumstances
    Hes had ZERO effect on the team which is whats concerning everyone but when he joined he not only inherited a badly put together squad with obvious gaps (full backs and goal keeper to name a few) but the bubble had burst fully and the atmosphere at leeds had returned to the cynicism, depression, frustration that we had known PRE- MONK
    Because of 15 years of bad ownership the fan base at leeds goes to a new depth of depression and is very socially active, EVERYONE including the players will be fully aware of how little the fanbase thinks of them.
    So like with Grayson at Sunderland (who are similar animal) I think most “managers” would struggle to lift moral at the point Heckingbuttocks came to Leeds
    I do think hes the wrong manager but unless we have someone really experienced to come in (and that would mean getting rid of Orta too) Leeds should keep him and give him a proper chance. Its simple logic
    Look at it from another angle……….if you brought in say Pulis that would mean kicking out Orta. If you kick out Orta you lose all the current work he and his team are doing on recruitment. If you assume that Orta and co have learnt their lesson and are now following the road Monk set out and are trying to sign experienced british based players then getting rid of that right at this moment when its critical we have a good summer of transfers could be quite damaging. Its a big risk for Radz as he cant afford another year like this
    Overall its not the answer either, like I said above Leeds are more like a Sunderland or a Villa rather than a Huddesfeild and in my mind it will take the kind of money spent at Villa and a Steve Bruce type manager to turn this creeking oil tanker round so all this talk is MOOT
    RADZ doesn’t have that kind of money, neither do leeds so for now expect them to stick rather than twist

    • Tim

      The problem is in my opinion he will go anyway latest halfway through next season and that will mean yet another season fucked off. Make a decision Radz and get rid now I say.

      • Chareose

        Then he needs to get rid of Orta too which isn’t as simple as you might think. If he boots Orta he loses most of his scouts too, so that would mean any on going Transfer recruitment potentially gets scrapped / re-set. I think that’s the ONLY reason why RADZ hasn’t got rid of ORTA and because RADZ knows nothing about football, relies on Orta
        I think he will get rid of Orta next year once we fail again but I don’t think RADZ is confident enough to do that now

        I wish he fucking would though

    • Irving 08

      Radz has to do it now. It is his only chance of getting things right. Otherwise he will be gone in a couple of year’s time. The disillusion will be too much for him. This is a big test of his stature.

  2. Tim

    Appointing Heckingbottom to me was a panic decision in looking for a quick fix British manager and an expensive decision to boot.
    Leeds fans will never take to him and he is a really bad fit all round and he needs to go now or latest at the weekend.
    You said it all in the article. Mick McCarthy and Terry Conner would do for me. He has competently managed Ipswich for over five years on fresh air as far as funds are concerned.
    I would like to see him make a start on Monday, but you are right about where Orta would fit in?

  3. mrbigwheels

    Bloody Hell…….
    I’ve been dying for someone to agree with me.
    The total truth at last.

  4. Mick D

    There is zero chance of Heck getting us up, even if we spent and Radz broke his piggy bank. He’s won 3 in 30 including Barnsley get rid! His personality wouldn’t motivate anyone. A plain speaker who will tear into our pussy hearted players needed. I want McCarthy in!

  5. Mick D

    Great article spot on we can’t afford to wait a new manager to get something out of players who were top of league in Sep.

  6. Irving 08

    I agree – he was never the right man for the job. But who could be ? At the risk of seeming unpatriotic, I venture to suggest that Yorkshire, or this part of it, no longer breeds the calibre of potential Manager a club like Leeds needs. We must have someone bred in an environment of success or, at any rate, one that is more competitive and outward looking, in football terms, than our region. A local club whose name I will not mention appears to have realised this and I think we should follow suit. So, as much as I like him, this rules out Mick, who anyway is surely disqualified by the Barnsley imprimatur !

  7. Henry V

    The squad is so diabolical, that it is difficult to make a fair judgement on the Manager.
    It is easier to fault Radz because he appointed both Orta and Heck.
    Any manager who comes to Leeds without sorting the recruitment required for success is a fool.
    Orta brought a batch of terrible players to the club.
    Can a manager really achieve the play-offs with a crap defence and a weak midfield?
    Can any manager coax good performances out of a poor player?
    You can talk ’till your blue in the face, but if the players are not up to the job mentally and physically, what can you do??
    Heck is not responsible for this mess.
    No top manager would take the job without a big budget, to gut the squad and start again with his own choice of players.

  8. Jim Debat

    I honestly think TC would have turned it around,one thing is for sure we were a better team with him than with-out….But since he has gone the wheels have totally come off!
    You would have thought Heck would have been given untill the end of the season to prove himself,but on this showing it would be crazy to give him the reins for next..
    I think we need to splash the cash on a MM type of figure

  9. Sarantakos

    If we take some time to think, L.U.F.C problem is the same of all “non premier league” era, lack of ambition combined with a lot of changes in coach team and desorganization or non comunication of owner and manager staff. TC was appointed thinking in playoff, was really necessary sack Monk, for me they are same kind of managers ? TC had a average to good work, sacked for nothing, perhaps with one or two seasons in the charge could lead us to playoffs at least… Looking more in the past, the best result was with Grayson. LUFC needs to re-think the hole departament of football, need someone with control in-out the pitch. and stability of, at least, 3 seasons. not Hockaday or Heckingbottom, someone who inspire the team to a better football, someone with golden eye to bargains, with ambition of premier challenges… Im tired of all year belive in a better Leeds, and all final day of season look a mid-table…


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