Speculation about Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom being sacked was 'disrespectful' says Oliver Norwood
Heckingbottom brushes off such talk, saying the "unforgiving" pressure is one of the things professional managers enjoy.
But all major bookmakers offer odds on the next Premier League or Football League manager to lose their job and after the Blades' 5-0 defeat at Arsenal, they were split over whether it would be the Yorkshireman or Manchester United's Erik ten Hag next in the top division.
A 2-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers – with Norwood scoring the stoppage-time winner from the penalty spot – has eased the scrutiny but it will soon return if the bottom-of-the-table side do not quickly follow it up with more points.
Norwood finds the whole thing distasteful, and ignorant of what Heckingbottom has achieved in two years working under tight financial restrictions.
"It’s disrespectful," said the midfielder, at the club since 2018. "It’s massively disrespectful to speak about people losing their jobs.
"The job he’s done since he came to the football club has been incredible.
"You guys (in the media) know everything that’s been going on – embargoes and different bits and bats – but he’s got on with the job and has never faded away from the responsibility."
Norwood says it has earnt the respect of the dressing room, and made the players even more keen to record their first win of the season at the weekend.
"He’s got our backing as players and I don’t think you’ve seen anyone throw the towel in and not play for him," he said.
"I think that speaks volumes for the respect we have for the manager.
"It’s wrong for people outside to do what they have been doing, but if you don’t win that’s what happens and it’s up to as players to sort it out."
Heckingbottom, was sacked by Hibernian and Leeds United in his last two jobs – he left first club Barnsley of his own choice to move to Elland Road – has never been one to ask for sympathy and says the pressure is part of the appeal of his job.
“Speculation around managers’ jobs is part and parcel of the role,” he told William Hill at the Football Writers Association Awards.
“I saw a stat the other day where I was one of the longest serving managers across the 92 clubs in the (English) football leagues (he is 19th on the list topped by Harrogate Town's Simon Weaver) which is a bit scary considering I’ve only been at Sheffield United for two years!
""It is the nature of the job now and I think if you’re worried about that kind of thing then you don’t go into it.
“It’s tough and unforgiving but that is probably one of the reasons why we like it. It’s the ultimate accountability and every decision you make is scrutinised but when you’re not doing it you miss it.“We’ve found the Premier league tough so far, and even from when I last experienced it two years ago (as the Blades' caretaker manager) it has come on. Everyone knows how big the Premier League is around the world but the standard and the quality of the players and the teams has gone up another level.”