Paul Heckingbottom’s start to life at Leeds United has been far from ideal, winning just four of 16 games in his opening few months in command. Yet there is already speculation that Leeds could appoint a 13th manager in just six years, with Jaap Stam the latest man linked.
The news comes from Sports Witness, quoting De Telegraaf, as suggesting that Leeds are interested in appointing the former Manchester United central defender who is also on the radar of Swansea City.
Such a move would be nonsensical for a club used to turmoil and crying out for stability. It’s clear that Heckingbottom’s early form has not been up to the standards that may have been expected when he was appointed, but the 2017/18 season was all but written off when Thomas Christiansen was dismissed in February.
Andrea Radrizzani and co. knew that in Heckingbottom they were hiring a coach who lacked experience, with no past in having handled the pressure of such a role at a club the size of Leeds. They went ahead with Heckingbottom because he knows the club, knows what it can mean to fans and has the potential to bring about a long-term plan at Elland Road.
Yet only three months later, rumours of a replacement are on the cards.
Stam would be the kind of man that would fit the Leeds agenda, a high profile name with no clear affinity to Leeds’ set-up, but his record does leave question marks.
His three at the back system deployed with Reading brought about success in 2016/17, taking the Royals to the play-offs with a reputation for their attractive style of play which caught the eye as they came close to returning to the top flight with Stam seemingly the inspiration.
Then came the team’s inexplicable collapse in 2017/18, crashing down to the wrong end of the table and leading to his inevitable sacking in March as he seemed to be too stubborn to change his ways as his side edged closer and closer to relegation.
Stam may implement a recognised style of play at Leeds, one which would be welcomed by many fans, but it would take time to get results. Time and patience is something that managers at Leeds do not get, as would be shown if he was to be hired with Heckingbottom abandoned after only three months in charge.
If Radrizzani wants to see Leeds finally awaken from their slumber as a sleeping giant, he needs to bide his time and trust his man. Whether Heckingbottom is the right man or not will only be seen with time, but having made his bed he must now lie in it, appointing Stam would show yet more short-term vision which has destabilised the club.