Sheffield United replace Slavisa Jokanovic with Paul Heckingbottom

Slavisa Jokanovic and Paul Heckingbottom
Paul Heckingbottom takes over from Slavisa Jokanovic with the Blades 16th in the Championship

Sheffield United have sacked boss Slavisa Jokanovic and appointed Paul Heckingbottom as his replacement on a four-and-a-half-year deal.

Heckingbottom, 44, ended last season in caretaker charge as they were relegated from the Premier League before Jokanovic took over in May.

The 53-year-old Serb won just six of his 19 leagues games in charge.

Sheffield United, who host Bristol City on Sunday, are eight points off the Championship play-off places.

“Disappointingly, after a slow start, we have not seen an improvement in results, performances and we’d prefer to be in a better league position,” Blades chief executive Stephen Bettis said in a statement.external-link

“A decision has been made and now it is important that we look forward, Paul’s style and ethos matches that of the club and we will support him where possible.”

Promotion the target

Heckingbottom said his first job was to revive confidence of players, many who were part of last season’s relegation from the Premier League.

He described their struggles for consistency under Jokanovic as a “hangover” from last season’s drop, but was still upbeat about the chances of helping the Blades back to the top flight.

“I honestly believe that’s achievable this season,” he told BBC Radio Sheffield. “I’ve the added bonus that I’ve worked with them and they know me and I know them.

“If I thought these players were nowhere near then why would I be sat here? I know we can do it, and it’s my immediate aim this season.”

January could be a key time for the club, when the transfer window opens and Heckingbottom can begin to shape his squad.

While he intimated that additions might be outweighed by departures, he also rejected the idea of a lack of ambition to achieve success this season.

“I’m not writing this season off, I keep saying, 100% not,” Heckingbottom added.

“Sometimes the problem is unmotivated players, and unmotivated players aren’t going to get us where we need to be.

“I’ve been in this position before, I’ve said these things before, sometimes it’s more important to get players out than in.

“I’m not saying that definitely going to happen, but I am saying there will probably be casualties. We know that. But that can be just as important as bringing players in.”

New appointments, familiar faces

Heckingbottom will be assisted by former Sheffield United player and coach Stuart McCall, who leaves Blackpool. Former Blades striker Jack Lester has been appointed head of player development.

Jokanovic arrived at Bramall Lane from Qatari side Al-Gharafa looking to win promotion to the Premier League with a third club, having done so with both Watford and Fulham.

However, a slow start that saw them fail to win any of their first four matches never really picked up and, despite winning at Reading on Tuesday, they are as close to the relegation zone as they are the top six.

Heckingbottom won promotion to the Championship with Barnsley before a brief spell in charge at Leeds United ended in June 2018.

He spent around nine months at Scottish Premiership side Hibernian but was sacked in November 2019 and took on a role as the Blades’ under-23s coach in July 2020.

After Chris Wilder, who had taken the club from League One to Premier League, left the club in March he was appointed as the club’s caretaker manager until the end of the season before reverting to his previous role upon the arrival of Jokanovic.

Chairman Yusuf Giansiracusa said: “We look forward to embarking on a new era in Blades football with Paul at the helm.

“Paul possesses the personal leadership qualities and technical football skills the board feels are essential to successfully implement the board’s strategic directives.”


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