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.