Sheff Utd sack Jokanovic and appoint Heckingbottom

Sheffield United have sacked Slavisa Jokanovic and appointed Paul Heckingbottom as manager on a contract through to the end of the 2025/26 season.

Jokanovic was appointed on a three-year deal in May but only oversaw 22 games in his near six-month spell in charge.

Heckingbottom, who is promoted from his role as U23s manager, will lead training from Friday ahead of Sunday’s Championship match against Bristol City at Bramall Lane.

The former Barnsley, Leeds United and Hibernian manager was placed in interim charge of the Blades in March following Chris Wilder’s departure after almost five years in charge.

Sheffield United, relegated from the Premier League last season, sit 16th in the Championship on 23 points, having won at Reading on Tuesday in the final game of Jokanovic’s tenure.

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Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship match between Reading and Sheffield United

In a club statement, they said the decision to part company with Jokanovic followed “several months of strategic planning and a lacklustre start to the season.”

Heckingbottom will work alongside former Blades players Jack Lester, who becomes head of player development, and Stuart McCall, who is the new assistant manager.

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McCall, who has left the Blackpool coaching staff, was previously assistant manager at Sheffield United, under Neil Warnock between 2004-2007.

The club say further announcements with regards to the structure of the football department will be made in due course.

Paul Heckingbottom served as Sheffield United’s caretaker manager last season

Chairman Yusuf Giansiracusa said: “We look forward to embarking on a new era in Blades football with Paul at the helm.

“Paul possesses the personal leadership qualities and technical football skills the board feels are essential to successfully implement the board’s strategic directives.

“He shares our values and interest in player development while also possessing the ambition and determination to get the most out of our current squad. We are convinced that Paul will play a leading role in improving all aspects of football operations.”

Jokanovic, who has won promotion to the Premier League with Watford and Fulham, is the fifth Championship manager to leave their role this season.

Stephen Bettis, United’s chief executive officer, added: “We have enough league games remaining, we know we have the ability and resources within our playing squad to start picking up points and climbing the league table.”

What went wrong for Jokanovic?

Jokanovic was informed of the Sheffield United hierarchy’s decision to part company on Thursday morning, with the news understood to have come as a surprise to the Serbian.

He had recently reverted to a back three – favoured by predecessor Wilder – which had seen four points won and two clean sheets registered in their past two league games.

Jokanovic had started slowly in the promotion seasons at the helm of both Watford and Fulham.

He is understood to have been promised 50 per cent of sales made in the summer to invest back into the team.

However, despite Aaron Ramsdale’s departure to Arsenal for a fee that could reach GBP30m, the club only brought in loans in Morgan Gibbs-White, Ben Davies, Robin Olsen and Conor Hourihane.

The relationship with the board is not thought to have become overly fractious, but there was disappointment that summer signings came in late.

Jokanovic had already gone public at the start of November with his desire for “two wingers and a holding midfielder” in January, while there was frustration, like Wilder, with the club’s training facilities and building.

Club chiefs believed Jokanovic should have been getting more out of a squad that finished ninth in the Premier League in 2019/20, with chief executive Bettis telling Sky Sports in July of the club’s “ambition to come straight back up”.

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