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“It’s business as usual”: Leeds’ Paul Heckingbottom’s optimism shows naivety

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Photo: Getty Images.

When Paul Heckingbottom took the reigns at Elland Road, many expected it to be the spark that Leeds United needed to recapture their bright start to the season and push on in 2018. Instead, two months down the line, the club are in even more of a crisis.

The ex-Barnsley boss has overseen just one victory in that time, a far from convincing win over relegation battlers Bolton, and things are showing no sign of improvement.

That has led to speculation that his job may be at risk, but the coach has insisted that he is not fearing for his future.

“Everything has carried on as normal,” Heckingbottom told reporters, as quoted by Sky Sports.

“In terms of meetings, planning, and discussions for next season, nothing has changed.

“The speculation surprised everyone at the club, not just me. As far as we’re concerned, it’s business as usual.”

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

In only his second managerial role and thrown in at the deep end at a club as high profile as Leeds, Heckingbottom always had his work cut out to convince fans he was up to the task but his naivety is beginning to show.

Sloppy defensive play and a lack of threat in attack are giving fans little to cheer about, yet the manager is insistent that his team have the potential to be successful.

“At the minute we’re just putting halves of football together,” he added.

“That’s a problem. We’ve seen big moments in games become catalysts for us losing games, which is another problem.

“We need to put poor decisions by officials or injuries we might sustain to the back of our minds. We can’t let those kinds of situations affect us.”

At a time in the club’s history and under an owner who has shown no hesitation to make changes in the dug-out when things have not gone according to plan, Heckingbottom seemed to be adamant that he will still be in charge in the summer.

“We’re not where we want to be, so things have to change, we have to do a lot of good work to improve the squad. We want it slimmer, less in numbers and higher in quality.”

Whether he will make it to August in his role could be a challenge, given that fans are beginning to turn on Heckingbottom already and results are doing nothing to buy him time.

With the pressure off and nothing left to play for, the coach may be hoping for a late resurgence with only three games left to play, two of which are meaningless against fellow mid-table sides Norwich and QPR, but only after a derby with Barnsley, his former club, who need every point they can get to avoid a return to League One.

That Barnsley tie could prove decisive to Heckingbottom’s future, but assuming an approach of sticking with it appears to be a naive level of optimism if he is to turn things around at Elland Road.

Sam is a football journalist focusing on English football at all levels and Spanish football. He also writes for Spain's biggest daily sports newspaper, MARCA, as well as The Boot Room. Find Sam on Twitter at @samleveridge.

Leeds United

Leeds’ loan signing of Jamal Blackman adds much-needed goalkeeping depth

Max Cohen

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Jamal Blackman
Photo: Getty Images

On Monday, Leeds United announced the loan signing of goalkeeper Jamal Blackman from Chelsea.

The 24-year-old Englishman represents an astute signing on Marcelo Bielsa’s part, adding much-needed depth and Championship experience to the squad.

This summer, the Yorkshire club have seen nine players depart Elland Road, including goalkeepers Felix Wiedwald and Andy Lonergan.

As a result of this large turnover, the Whites have been left extremely short-staffed between the sticks, with only 21-year-old Bailey Peacock-Farrell in the mix with meaningful first-team experience.

Blackman is a smart addition to the squad as it is clear more goalkeeping options are needed, and it would be naive to allow Peacock-Farrell to occupy the undisputed number one spot when he only has 12 Championship appearances to his name.

Although the youngster’s performances during the final months of last season showed his impressive potential, Peacock-Farrell nevertheless conceded 18 goals and kept just a solitary clean sheet in 11 matches.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

In future seasons, the 21-year-old will be trusted with the starting spot but, for now, Jamal Blackman is a more effective option and can teach Peacock-Farrell about goalkeeping in the Championship.

Blackman made 31 appearances for Sheffield United last season, steering the Blades to an impressive tenth-placed finish, nine points above Leeds. The goalkeeper kept nine clean sheets and only conceded 34 goals, a laudable feat.

In addition, Chelsea experts think highly of the goalkeeper, as the club has continued to hold to his services permanently after numerous loan spells – perhaps indicating they hold out hope he can perform for the Blues at a top level one day.

Speaking to Leeds Live, football.london Chelsea writer Oliver Harbord praised Blackman’s saving abilities.

“He comes with the reputation of being a top shotstopper with some excellent reactions.”

In all, the season-long loan signing of Jamal Blackman is a smart piece of business from Leeds, bolstering their threadbare goalkeeping options with a highly-rated young shot-stopper.

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Leeds United

Did Marcelo Bielsa not want Kyle Bartley at Leeds United?

The former Leeds loanee has joined West Brom.

Mathew Nash

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Some Leeds United fans were left disappointed today when it became clear that Kyle Bartley will not be heading back to Elland Road. The defender is instead on his way to West Brom, joining in a deal eventually worth up to £6 million.

It is something of a strange transfer miss from Leeds, considering they looked so likely to sign the player earlier this summer.

It was April when Leeds were first linked with his signature. That transfer link remained throughout several differing problems. Swansea were relegated, but Leeds remained keen. Carlos Carvalhal left Swansea, but a deal still looked likely. Leeds sacked Paul Heckingbottom but Bartley still appeared to be a Leeds target.

(Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

The rumours only dried up after Marcelo Bielsa was appointed.

So it would be reasonable to hypothesize that Bielsa might be the man who decided Bartley was no longer right for Leeds.

A star for the club in 2016-17 he had an injury-troubled spell last term. But it could simply be that Bielsa is not a fan. He and Victor Orta may already have their eyes on someone else.

Leeds fans are rightly a cautious bunch, considering the turmoil their owners have put them through in the past. But this summer some patience and trust might be needed if Bielsa is to bring any success to Elland Road.

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Leeds United

Leeds United news round-up: Bartley goes elsewhere, Blackman signs and Radrizzani ends Bari deal

All the latest news and gossip from Leeds United.

Mathew Nash

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Bartley disappointment

Leeds will not be signing Kyle Bartley this summer. The long linked central defender has instead joined West Brom in a deal worth an eventual £6 million, as reported by the Birmingham Mail.

Leeds had been in contact with Swansea City earlier in the summer about the potential of snapping up Bartley. Leeds fans were very impressed with the rumour, as Bartley remains a fan favourite because of his form at Elland Road during a 2016-17 loan campaign.

But the defender will now be a rival in the Championship next season with the recently relegated Baggies.

(Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)

Blackman signs

Leeds have finally solved their goalkeeping problem for next season. Jamal Blackman has arrived on a season-long loan deal from Chelsea.

The 24-year-old spent last season on loan at Sheffield United and rejected a move to Vitesse Arnhem to make a move to West Yorkshire.

Leeds needed a new keeper after letting both Felix Wiedwald and Andy Lonergan go recently.

Radrizzani will not be a saviour

Yesterday it was being reported that Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani was set to save Italian side Bari from extinction.

He was reportedly putting together a saviour package for the Serie B club who are in serious financial trouble.

However, as reported by La Repubblica, that will no longer be happening.

New debts have been discovered at the club and Radrizzani has therefore pulled out of any deal.

Sadly, Bari are now expected to be liquidated

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