Paul Heckingbottom

Paul Heckingbottom (born 17 July 1977) is an English football coach and former player. Heckingbottom played as a defender for several English clubs, including Sunderland, Scarborough, Hartlepool United, Darlington, Norwich City, Bradford City, Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley and Mansfield Town.

Paul Heckingbottom
Personal information
Full name Paul Heckingbottom[1]
Date of birth (1977-07-17) 17 July 1977 (age 44)[1]
Place of birth Barnsley, England
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)[1]
Position(s) Defender
Youth career
1993–1995 Manchester United
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1995–1999 Sunderland 0 (0)
1997–1998Scarborough (loan) 29 (0)
1998–1999Hartlepool United (loan) 5 (1)
1999Darlington (loan) 10 (0)
1999–2002 Darlington 105 (5)
2002–2003 Norwich City 15 (0)
2003–2004 Bradford City 43 (0)
2004–2006 Sheffield Wednesday 42 (4)
2006–2008 Barnsley 49 (1)
2007–2008Bradford City (loan) 23 (0)
2008–2009 Bradford City 30 (0)
2009–2010 Mansfield Town 11 (1)
2010Gateshead (loan) 15 (0)
2010–2011 Gateshead 21 (0)
2011–2012 Harrogate Town 21 (0)
Total 419 (12)
Teams managed
2015 Barnsley (caretaker)
2016 Barnsley (caretaker)
2016–2018 Barnsley
2018 Leeds United
2019 Hibernian
2021 Sheffield United (interim)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

After retiring as a player, Heckingbottom trained as a coach. He obtained a position with Barnsley's development squad and, after a successful spell as caretaker manager in which the club won promotion and the EFL Trophy, he was appointed manager in 2016. In February 2018 he moved to Leeds United, but he was sacked during the 2018 close season after 16 games in charge. Heckingbottom then managed Scottish Premiership club Hibernian, but was sacked in November 2019. In March 2021, he was appointed interim manager of Sheffield United until the end of the season.


Early career

Heckingbottom was born in Barnsley and grew up in nearby Royston. As a child, he was a season-ticket holder at the town's football club, along with his grandfather.[2] He started his football career at Manchester United as a trainee, but joined Sunderland in 1995 after failing to gain a professional contract. He had loan spells at Scarborough, Hartlepool United and Darlington, without featuring for Sunderland, before joining Darlington permanently in 1999. He made 126 appearances, scoring 6 goals, before catching the attention of First Division side Norwich City, who signed him in 2002 on a three-year contract.[3]

Heckingbottom made just 16 appearances for Norwich, including only 7 starts, resulting in him cancelling his contract with the club by mutual consent after one year.[4] He subsequently signed for Bradford City in July 2003, and was named their Player of the Year at the end of his first season.[5] Bradford, however, were relegated to League One at the end of the 2003–04 season, and Heckingbottom left to join League One club Sheffield Wednesday during the close season.[6]

Sheffield Wednesday

Heckingbottom was well favoured under both Wednesday managers Chris Turner and Paul Sturrock, making a total of 41 appearances at left back in his first season – more than any other player that year. He also scored four goals, helping the Owls to promotion to the Championship via the play-off final at the end of the 2004–05 season. Due to an injury sustained in pre-season he was put out of contention for the first 16 games of the 2005–06 season. When he returned to fitness, new signing John Hills had begun to make the left back spot his own. An injury to Hills left Heckingbottom able to re-stake his claim on the team, but he only managed a 4-game streak before once again succumbing to injury, this time Peter Gilbert taking his place in the squad. Sturrock allowed Heckingbottom a chance to prove himself in an FA Cup Third Round game against Charlton Athletic. He scored both of Wednesday's goals in the 4–2 defeat at Hillsborough, though this was not enough to establish himself as the club's first-choice left back.


On 13 January 2006, Heckingbottom was sent on loan, with a view to a permanent move, to his boyhood club Barnsley.[7] He played an important part in the club's promotion campaign and win over Swansea City in the League One play-off final, scoring in the 4–3 penalty shootout victory that secured their promotion to the Championship. Heckingbottom played in 31 games for Barnsley the next season, as they comfortably avoided relegation. He scored once during his spell at Barnsley, in a 1–0 win over Tranmere Rovers on 18 February 2006.[8]

Bradford City

In July 2007, Heckingbottom returned to Bradford City on loan until 1 January 2008.[9] He played in all 23 league games during his loan spell, missing only an FA Cup tie against Tranmere Rovers through suspension following a red card in a 1–1 draw with Stockport County.[5][10] A week after his loan deal expired, his contract at Barnsley was cancelled by mutual consent and he signed a permanent 18-month deal at Bradford City.[11] He missed his first league game of the 2007–08 season with four games left, when an ankle injury prevented him from playing against Brentford on 12 April 2008. Heckingbottom's place was taken by Luke O'Brien, who made his Bradford debut in a 2–2 draw.[12][13]

He played in the club's first nine league games of the 2008–09 season, but was sent off in a 1–1 draw with Luton Town for two bookable offences.[14] His place was again taken by youngster O'Brien, and although Heckingbottom returned for an FA Cup game against Milton Keynes Dons, he suffered tendonitis which kept him out for five months.[15][16] Bradford opted against offering Heckingbottom a contract extension, and he left the club in May 2009.[17]

Non-league career

Heckingbottom signed for Conference National club Mansfield Town on 2 June 2009, marking his first foray into the game outside the Football League.[18] He sustained a hamstring injury in pre-season and did not play until October, in a 1–0 win over Forest Green Rovers, 11 months from when he last played a game of football.[19][20] He became a regular in the Mansfield line-up.[21] He scored his first and only Mansfield goal against Crawley Town on 14 November 2009.[22] On 1 February 2010, Heckingbottom joined Gateshead on loan until the end of the season.[23] making his debut on 13 February away at Hayes & Yeading United.

Heckingbottom signed for Gateshead on a permanent basis on 26 May 2010.[24] He made 23 appearances in all competitions during the 2010–11 season before he was released on 4 May 2011.[25]

He spent the 2011–12 season with Harrogate Town, making 21 appearances in the Conference North without scoring.[26][27]

Coaching career


Heckingbottom took the opportunity to gain an academic understanding of football coaching, to set his CV apart from other managers competing for jobs. He completed his BSc (Hons) Sports Coaching at Leeds Metropolitan University in 2013, followed by an MSc in Sport Coaching in 2016, by which point the university had been renamed Leeds Beckett University.[28]

He went on to work as a coach with professional club Barnsley's development squad, and was appointed caretaker manager of the first team after Danny Wilson was sacked in 2015. He was not appointed on a permanent basis in favour of Lee Johnson, though was appointed in the caretaker manager role once again the following year after Johnson left to manage Bristol City. During the latter spell, he guided Barnsley to a 3–2 win against Oxford United in the Football League Trophy final[29] and promotion to the Championship by beating Millwall 3–1 in the League One play-off final.[30] His success as caretaker, leading Barnsley to their first cup final victory since 1912 and promotion to the Championship, led to his being appointed head coach on a permanent basis.[31]

The good form and results continued for the first half of the 2016–17 Championship season, as the club ended 2016 in ninth position. Heckingbottom was awarded Sports Hero of the Year by The Yorkshire Post.[32] Heckingbottom signed a new rolling contract at Barnsley on 2 February 2018,[33] but he left the club days later to take a similar position with Leeds United.

Leeds United

On 6 February 2018, Heckingbottom was announced as the new head coach of Leeds United on an 18-month contract.[34] In his first match as head coach, Leeds lost 2–1 to Sheffield United,[35] and finished 13th in the 2017–18 EFL Championship league table. Heckingbottom blooded youngster Bailey Peacock-Farrell as first-choice goalkeeper and also gave debuts to academy players Tom Pearce, Paudie O'Connor, Hugo Díaz and Ryan Edmondson.[36] Heckingbottom integrated further academy players with the first team during a controversial post-season tour of Myanmar.[37][38] Heckingbottom was sacked by Leeds on 1 June 2018, after just four months with the club, and was succeeded by Marcelo Bielsa.[39]


Heckingbottom was appointed head coach of Scottish Premiership club Hibernian on 13 February 2019.[40] The club went on an unbeaten league run, and Heckingbottom won the Premiership Manager of the Month award for March 2019.[41] Two days later, Heckingbottom won his first Edinburgh derby match as Hibs manager against Hearts at Tynecastle.[42] Hibs finished in fifth position, but Heckingbottom was unhappy that the team "downed tools" in the last few matches of the season.[43]

Hibs won only one of their first eleven league matches in the 2019–20 season. Heckingbottom was sacked on 4 November following a 5–2 defeat by Celtic in a League Cup semi-final, with the team sitting in 10th place in the league.[44]

Sheffield United

Heckingbottom was appointed as under-23s lead coach at Sheffield United in July 2020.[45] After first-team manager Chris Wilder left the club by mutual consent in March 2021, with the team bottom of the Premier League and 12 points adrift of safety, Heckingbottom took interim charge until the end of the season.[46][47] United lost 5–0 to Leicester City in his first match in charge,[48] and relegation to the Championship was confirmed after four more defeats.[49] Sheffield United won three of their last six matches, and Heckingbottom was shortlisted for the permanent position, but former Fulham manager Slaviša Jokanović was appointed.[50]

Career statistics

Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League FA Cup League Cup Other Total
Sunderland 1996–97[51] FA Premier League00000000
1997–98[52] First Division000000
1998–99[53] First Division00000000
Total 00000000
Scarborough (loan) 1997–98[52] Third Division290001[lower-alpha 1]0300
Hartlepool United (loan) 1998–99[53] Third Division5151
Darlington (loan) 1998–99[53] Third Division100100
Darlington 1999–2000[54] Third Division45131204[lower-alpha 2]0542
2000–01[55] Second Division18110202[lower-alpha 1]0231
2001–02[56] Third Division42340002[lower-alpha 1]0483
Total 11558140801356
Norwich City 2002–03[57] First Division1500010160
Bradford City 2003–04[58] First Division4301010450
Sheffield Wednesday 2004–05[59] League One38400103[lower-alpha 3]0424
2005–06[60] Championship40120052
Total 420121030476
Barnsley 2005–06[60] League One1813[lower-alpha 3]0211
2006–07[61] Championship3101000320
2007–08[62] Championship
Total 491100030531
Bradford City 2007–08[62] League Two44010101[lower-alpha 1]0470
2008–09[15] League Two9010101[lower-alpha 1]0120
Total 530202020590
Mansfield Town 2009–10[21][63] Conference Premier111301[lower-alpha 4]0151
Gateshead (loan) 2009–10[21] Conference Premier150150
Gateshead 2010–11[64][65] Conference Premier210001[lower-alpha 4]0220
Total 3600010370
Career total 398121639019044215
  1. Appearance(s) in Football League Trophy
  2. One appearance in Football League Trophy, three in Football League Third Division play-offs
  3. Appearances in League One play-offs
  4. Appearance in FA Trophy

Managerial record

As of match played 23 May 2021
Managerial record by team and tenure
Team From To Record
Barnsley (caretaker)[66] 12 February 2015 25 February 2015 3 2 0 1 066.67
Barnsley (caretaker)[67] 6 February 2016 15 June 2016 22 14 5 3 063.64
Barnsley[66][67] 15 June 2016 6 February 2018 83 23 23 37 027.71
Leeds United[66] 6 February 2018 1 June 2018 16 4 4 8 025.00
Hibernian[66] 13 February 2019 4 November 2019 32 11 12 9 034.38
Sheffield United (interim)[66] 13 March 2021 27 May 2021 11 3 0 8 027.27
Total 167 57 44 66 034.13



Sheffield Wednesday





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