Stuart McCall found offer to link up with Paul Heckingbottom at old club Sheffield United too hard to resist

NEW SHEFFIELD UNITED assistant Stuart McCall says that seeing Paul Heckingbottom carve out a career in management is no surprise whatsoever.

The pair have linked up for a second occasion, but this time the dynamic is different, with McCall – who was Heckingbottom’s manager when he was a player at Bradford City in the late Noughties – now being his No 2 at Bramall Lane.

McCall said: “He was just a really good professional and lad to have in the dressing room. He was a student of the game, if you like, and quite intelligent which is rare for footballers.

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“But I would have always have thought that he would have been the one out of the dressing room who would go on. Flynny (Michael Flynn) was another who I thought would probably go on and forge a career in it.

Old pals act: Paul Heckingbottom and Stuart McCall direct the players during the Sky Bet Championship match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. (Picture: Simon Bellis / Sportimage)

“Unfortunately, he (Heckingbottom) had to cut his (playing) career short with a hamstring injury and he did not to play as much as I would have liked for us (Bradford). But he was the right type of person and we kept in touch since.

“Over the years, I have given him some good advice and bad advice! And also told him which club to go to and which players not to sign.

“He has leaned on me for certain players I might have known. He obviously went up to Hibs and I’d also worked with the chief executive of Hibs (Leeann Dempster) at Motherwell who was good.

“I’d give him any help I could regarding players and whatever and we kept in touch.”

Stuart McCall, Jack Lester and Paul Heckingbottom (Picture: Simon Bellis / Sportimage)

Meanwhile, McCall admits that the chance to come back to his former club United represented a big surprise.

The 57-year-old had only joined previous club Blackpool in the summer – as assistant to Neil Critchley – having been out of football since leaving the Bantams last December.

He added: “I had four really good months at Blackpool. People know I am a loyal person and I was not for one second looking to come out of the club or anything. This has come right out of the blue.

“There were a lot of things obviously. I know the club really well and thoroughly enjoyed my years here.

“I know Hecky well and it is obviously a lot nearer home and there’s the size of the club and the actual squad of players.”