New Leeds United head coach Paul Heckingbottom said he was ready for a defining period of the season and insisted he and the club were “aligned” in their ideas after signing an 18-month contract.
Heckingbottom was formally appointed on Tuesday morning and arrived at Thorp Arch to take charge of his first training session with Saturday’s Yorkshire derby at Sheffield United looming and Leeds under pressure to fight their way back into contention for the Championship play-offs.
United’s campaign has run aground after six league matches without a victory and a 4-1 defeat to Cardiff City on Saturday spelled the end of Thomas Christiansen’s 35-game reign as head coach.
Heckingbottom was swiftly appointed by Leeds, with the club paying £500,000 to release him from a new contract he agreed with Barnsley only last Friday.
The 40-year-old is jumping in at the deep end with United due to play top-six sides Sheffield United, Bristol City, Derby County and league leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers in their next five games.
Heckingbottom said: “We’ll get out on the grass because that’s important. There are some really big fixtures coming up and some which are going to define the season.
“I can’t wait to get started. I can’t wait. It’s a big opportunity, a big football club and something you work hard for. I’m planning to make the most of it.”
Heckingbottom left Barnsley in 21st place in the Championship and less than a week after accepting new terms at Oakwell, drawing a pointed statement from Barnsley which said they were “thoroughly disappointed.”
The management structure at Leeds, where Spaniard Victor Orta operates as director of football and exerts heavy control over recruitment and transfers, has come under scrutiny amid their poor run of form and a struggle amongst certain summer signings to make a serious impact.
But Heckingbottom, who has brought assistant Jamie Clapham with him to Leeds, said: “When I spoke to Victor and the owner (Andrea Radrizzani), it really aligned with what I was thinking and how I’d like to work.
“I presume that’s the reason they thought I was the right man for the job. I’m aligned with how they like to work and hopefully that will be good for us going forward.”