Chris Wilder is set to take over as Sheffield United manager on an 18-month contract.
The Blades are expected to announce the sacking of Paul Heckingbottom on Tuesday, followed by the appointment of their former boss Wilder in his second spell at the club.
In a key Premier League relegation battle on Saturday, Sheffield United were beaten 5-0 by Vincent Kompany’s Burnley, losing their 11th game of the season, with only one victory from their 14 matches.
After being leapfrogged by Burnley, Sheffield United are now bottom of the table. They play Liverpool at Bramall Lane on Wednesday night.
Heckingbottom was appointed as head coach at Bramall Lane in November 2021, and guided the Blades back to the top flight by finishing second in the Championship last season.
Wilder, 56, is currently out of work after his short-term contract came to an end at Watford.
‘Heckingbottom to leave with head held high’
Sky Sports News senior reporter Tim Thornton:
“We expect imminent news that Heckingbottom is the first manager to be sacked this season [in the Premier League]. He’s just left the training ground along with his assistant Stuart McCall. We understand that Chris Wilder will take over, around 1,000 days after he left the club.
“A legend at Bramall Lane having led Sheffield United to promotion from League One and the Championship. He also led them to a ninth-placed finish in the Premier League and they were competing for a Champions League spot at one stage during that season before Covid and the break.
“It’s hugely disappointing for him [Heckingbottom] as he has had to deal with a transfer embargo and took over the side when it was struggling. He’s conducted himself really well in very difficult circumstances and he’ll leave the club with his head held high.”
‘Loss of two best players derailed Heckingbottom’
Sue Smith on Sky Sports News:
“After the result at the weekend, there was a feeling this could potentially happen. You also think of the Bournemouth result at home before that.
“When you’re playing against two teams around you, I don’t think it was necessarily the results, but also the performances.
“There was a lack of fight and it was something that really struck home watching the games.
“They beat Wolves and drew with Brighton so you wondered if they were picking up, but I do feel for Paul Heckingbottom.
“He came into the season having lost two of his best players in Sander Berge and Iliman Ndiaye, so I do have sympathy.”
Speaking after Saturday’s 5-0 defeat, Heckingbottom said Sheffield United are paying the price for their summer transfer window.
Burnley, promoted as Championship winners last season, invested more than £90m in the summer, but it was very different at Bramall Lane where key players Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge were sold – the latter to Burnley – with Heckingbottom only able to invest limited funds to replace them.
“I wanted to keep the group together but we couldn’t,” Heckingbottom said. “We couldn’t because of the last few years and the financial implications. If we’d tied them down [on longer contracts] then we probably wouldn’t have sold those players.
“There wasn’t a desire from the ownership to sell but a necessity from a business point of view. We’ve been making financial decisions rather than football decisions. Of course that affects me. I didn’t want it to happen.”
It has left United hamstrung when trying to compete in a Premier League where clubs from top to bottom have spent significantly in recent windows, as shown by last weekend’s 3-1 home defeat against struggling Bournemouth.
“In terms of other clubs, good luck to them,” Heckingbottom said. “Bournemouth last week: you go through the last four windows and we’ve been cutting the wage bill, transfer embargoes, selling the best assets and they’ve spent £200m.
“We’re going to face this every week but so what? We have to embrace the challenge of this league. The players have worked hard to be here. It’s not going to change. It’s just an excuse, a reason to fail.”