Sheffield United have appointed Chris Wilder as their new manager after sacking Paul Heckingbottom.
The Blades fired Heckingbottom after they slipped to the bottom of the Premier League table, with just five points, after Saturday’s embarrassing 5-0 defeat at Burnley, their 11th reverse in 14 matches.
Wilder returns to the club after leaving his first spell in March 2021 with the Blades on the way to relegation to the Championship, and will take charge of Wednesday’s Premier League clash with Liverpool. One of his assistant managers will be former Ireland assistant manager Keith Andrews.
Sheffield United’s owner, Prince Abdullah, described Wilder as “the best guy on planet Earth to take over the club” as he welcomed back the manager as Paul Heckingbottom’s successor.
Wilder said his boyhoood club were getting him at his best as he faced up to the challenge of lifting United off the bottom of the Premier League, starting at home to Liverpool on Wednesday.
Heckingbottom’s sacking was confirmed more than an hour after Abdullah had gone on TalkSport to eulogise about Wilder, who has returned just under three years after he left with United also 20th in the top flight.
“One thing I always like to do, not just in football but all of my businesses, is to keep a good relationship with my ex-employees no matter how it ended; I think you should get over it,” Abdullah said. “At the end of the day we’re all passionate about what we do and we believe Chris is the right man for the job. Chris has done great things for the club and in my opinion he’s the best guy on planet Earth to take over the club right now in these circumstances.”
Wilder led United into the Premier League in 2019 but went by mutual consent in March 2021 after a decline in performances and results. He left Watford in May at the end of a short-term contract after failing to spark a promotion push. That followed a difficult reign at Middlesbrough.
“I am more enthusiastic and determined than I have ever been,” Wilder said. “Sheffield United are getting me at my best as well. For me, this is a huge challenge personally, and I am rubbing my hands together to try and help the club get out of the position we are in. We are up against it; everyone in the world thinks we are done and dusted. We have always had that underdog tag, that mentality.
“I have come back to help the football club. I have been given a great opportunity to hopefully make a difference. It is going to be a long hard season — we know that. We are going to have some difficult moments and we are going to have to suffer. I am into the players and hopefully we can get a reaction.”
Wilder said he had settled his differences with Abdullah. “My relationship with Prince Abdullah and the board was repaired a long time ago. After some time passed following my initial departure, we spoke, met in person and there was an amicable ending. Now, coming back as manager, to know there is a united front again is crucial … Regardless of what other people think, he feels I am the best man to do the job and I am delighted he thinks that. The biggest positive for me is that the relationship between him and myself is good and he wants me to come back.”
United have one win and two draws from 14 Premier League games but Wilder said he did not hesitate over whether to accept the job. “Quite simply it was an opportunity which I just couldn’t turn down,” he said. “Just like in 2016, when this club comes calling, it is not something you pass up. 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.”
Heckingbottom won promotion from the Championship last season despite numerous off‑field issues and on the eve of this campaign had to absorb the sudden departure of the prized assets Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge. His final match was last Saturday’s 5-0 defeat at Burnley.
“I have mixed emotions about letting Paul go,” Abdullah said. “I really have a lot of respect for Paul and everything he did for the club, he’s a very classy guy.” The club said coaches Stuart McCall and Mark Hudson had also gone.
Chief executive Stephen Bettis added: “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.”