Soccer-Sheffield United sack Heckingbottom, Wilder returns


Soccer Football - Championship - Watford v Birmingham City - Vicarage Road, Watford, Britain - March 14, 2023 Watford manager Chris Wilder Action Images/Ed Sykes/File Photo

(Reuters) -Bottom club Sheffield United parted ways with Paul Heckingbottom on Tuesday with former manager Chris Wilder returning to lead the Premier League club's battle against relegation.

Heckingbottom is the first Premier League managerial casualty this term, although Julen Lopetegui left Wolverhampton Wanderers three days before the start of the season.

"Firstly, on behalf of the board of directors, I'd like to thank Paul for all of his efforts at Sheffield United, firstly as U23s manager before stepping up to take control of first-team duties," United's CEO Stephen Bettis said in a statement.

"His professionalism and dedication have been a credit to the club and I'm sure all Unitedites enjoyed the promotion-winning campaign. However, after slipping to the bottom of the table and a number of disappointing results and performances, it is felt that a change is needed to give the club a boost and every possible chance of remaining in the Premier League."

Wilder will be in the technical area for Wednesday's home clash with Liverpool after agreeing an 18-month contract.

A former Sheffield United player, Wilder guided the Yorkshire club back to the Premier League in 2019 after consecutive promotions and achieved a ninth-placed finish having at one stage been in contention for European qualification.

However, the second season proved more difficult and Wilder left the club in 2021.

"Quite simply it was an opportunity which I just couldn't turn down. Just like in 2016, when this club comes calling, it is not something you pass up," he told the club's website.

"This is Sheffield United, it is my team and I am thrilled to be back. We find ourselves in a difficult position, I understand that, but I think I can make a difference."

United are bottom of the table with just one win all season and have five points from 14 games.

They were handed an embarrassing 8-0 home thrashing by Newcastle United in September while lowly Burnley beat them 5-0 at Turf Moor on Saturday.

Bettis said Wilder's familiarity with the squad gives them a chance of turning around the season.

"His love for United and desire to improve the current situation is undeniable, added to the fact that he knows the majority of the squad and the club's DNA, which will help him hit the ground running," he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the club's owner Prince Abdullah told radio station Talk Sport that Wilder was "the best guy on the planet to take over the club."

"Chris is practically an honour of the club, he's part of Sheffield United history," Prince Abudullah added.

Heckingbottom's departure had become inevitable although the managerial revolving door has been quiet this season with clubs resisting the urge to part ways with their coaches.

At this stage last season five Premier League managers had already lost their jobs -- Scott Parker (Bournemouth), Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea), Bruno Lage (Wolves), Steven Gerrard (Aston Villa) and Ralph Hasenhuettl (Southampton).

By the end of the season there had been a Premier League record 14 managerial changes.

(Reporting by Trevor Stynes and Martyn Herman , editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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