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Heckingbottom’s got an ugly record at Leeds: Has he justified another year?

If Thomas Christiansen’s appointment was a “mistake,” what exactly is the continued backing of Heckingbottom?

Aston Villa v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Paul Heckingbottom’s record as manager at Leeds United isn’t a pretty one. And while he’s had to face picking up the pieces of the season after Leeds fell out of a playoff spot after some gut-wrenching losses to Millwall and Cardiff City in January, even with players returning from injury and suspension hasn’t seen the form of the team improve.

Andrea Radrizzani infamously called the hiring of Thomas Christiansen a “mistake” after sacking the head coach in early February. The move was seen as a last-ditch attempt to try and make the playoffs, given the sour turn in form in January. And it was, perhaps, the right decision to sack Christiansen, but the change in head coaches has not had the desired effect on the performance of the club.

However, the results at the club have seen to have gone backwards under Heckingbottom, even when players have returned from suspension and injury. The average goals conceded have increased (1.80 from 1.29) and the average goals scored have dipped (1.07 vs 1.54). And while the sample size is smaller under Heckingbottom and perhaps the strength of schedule should be factored in, the point still remains that through 15 games at the club, Heckingbottom has yet to achieve even mediocrity.

The win-loss record under Heckingbottom has been brutal, and the GA and GF numbers also reflect the poor form. As for idea that Heckingbottom has had to face more injuries or suspensions, it’s hard to justify that when the record under Heckingbottom since Samu Saiz, the highest profile suspension this season, returned from suspension is almost as bad (12 points from 13 games) as it was when he was gone (two points from six games), and not nearly as good as the record the team had under Christiansen.

Heckingbottom’s reputation for bringing along young players was part of the reason he was hired at Leeds, but he’s not even done that. He called for a “change in mentality” in the team after the loss at Norwich City, but that’s the kind of thing that happens when a new manager (or in this case, head coach) takes over, not from someone who has been in charge for three months. He’s had plenty of opportunity to “change the mentality” of the players, and if he hasn’t in three months, then maybe it’s time to find someone who can.

Heckingbottom’s position is not seen in doubt by those around the club, but should it? Heckingbottom has not lit the world on fire since taking over at Leeds, and if anything, the performances have been worse with him at the helm of the club than his predecessor, Christiansen. And while he hasn’t been able to bring new players in, the record for the fifteen games that he has been in charge of can’t be explained away by missing players or facing a murder’s row of quality teams. If the Christiansen hire was a mistake, what then was the hiring (and backing) or Heckingbottom after a set of worse results?