Sheffield United owner says Wilder is perfect fit as Heckingbottom sacked

<span>Photograph: SportImage/Sheffield United FC/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: SportImage/Sheffield United FC/Getty Images

Sheffield United’s owner, Prince Abdullah, has described Chris Wilder as “the best guy on planet Earth to take over the club” as he welcomed back the manager as Paul Heckingbottom’s successor.

Abdullah made his remarks to TalkSport more than an hour before the club confirmed Heckingbottom’s sacking and Wilder’s return. The club lie bottom of the Premier League and Wilder is returning just under three years after he left with the team in the same position.

“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.”

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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.

“Quite simply it was an opportunity which I just couldn’t turn down,” Wilder 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.

“When I received the call asking if I would consider coming back to try and help, I didn’t have to think about it. People know what this club means to me, and the task now is to try and provide a boost to improve our current situation. 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 as we look to work together to improve the club’s position in the Premier League.”

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. United have won once this season and lost 5-0 at Burnley last Saturday. The team play at home to Liverpool on Wednesday, then host Brentford on Saturday.

“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 the coaches Stuart McCall and Mark Hudson had also gone.

The 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.”