Two years of Paul Heckingbottom at Sheffield United: Sometimes I do too much, admits Blades boss

PAUL HECKINGBOTTOM says not spreading himself too thinly has been the biggest challenge of a turbulent two years as Sheffield United manager, but he has loved every minute of it.

Often in modern football clubs, the person picking the team is more of a coach than a manager, working in structures designed to take the load off them with directors of football and other support staff.

But Heckingbottom likes to be more hands-on than some of his counterparts, and facing the media twice, sometimes even four times a week, often makes him a reluctant spokesperson for the wider club.

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So a two-year spell which has seen the Blades up for sale and put under a transfer embargo early last year has put plenty on his plate.

He first got a taste of the main job at Bramall Lane as caretaker-manager of a relegation-doomed side in the spring of 2022.

Overlooked for the permanent role in the summer, he only got the full experience when replacing the sacked Slavisa Jokanovic in November, taking his first game on the 28th and beating Bristol City 2-0.

"It's not changed me," he insists. "I've got better at certain things and maybe worse at others, I don't know.

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"It's been all-encompassing. I've been involved in so many things which in a certain way has been good to have that dialogue with the owners and that influence but with it comes a lot more work and I've had to make sure I don't spread myself too thin.

ANNIVERSARY: Sheffield United manager Paul HeckingbottomANNIVERSARY: Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom
ANNIVERSARY: Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom

"I have done on occasions, without a doubt.

"You can get involved in so many things because you know it's the right thing to do to help the club and then you're not as good at other things. That's probably been the challenge and I've no doubt that will continue to be the challenge. But I wouldn't change anything."

Heckingbottom inherited a side in danger of being dragged into a relegation battle and led them to within a penalty shoot-out of the Championship play-off final, then won automatic promotion despite a transfer embargo.

Season three has been tough, spent entirely in the Premier League's relegation zone but that should come as no surprise given his transfer budget.

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Just lasting two years is enough to make him the 19th longest-serving manager in English league football.

Heckingbottom has always stressed the importance of good assistants, bringing Jack Lester with him when stepping up from under-21 to senior manager and drafting in Stuart McCall, another with managerial experience. Last summer former Cardiff City manager Mark Hudson joined the backroom, freeing up Heckingbottom to deal with wider issues where needed.

"The bits we talk about are just a small fraction of the job," he said. "The challenge of the job is great and Saturday afternoon being with the players is the bit I enjoy the most.

"It's been a great two years and I'd like this year to be great as well but we've got a lot of work to do."