‘The best guy on planet Earth’: EPL owner praises new coach – an hour before he’d sacked the old one


Sheffield United have brought back Chris Wilder to replace manager Paul Heckingbottom.

Less than 90 minutes after the Saudi owner of the Premier League’s bottom club, Prince Abdullah, had said on radio that he had made the decision Heckingbottom’s exit was confirmed and, soon after, so was Wilder’s return.

Speaking to TalkSport, Abdullah lauded Wilder’s abilities live on the air – but before the club had actually said anything about parting ways with Heckingbottom.

“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,” said the owner.

“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.

“Chris is very optimistic he can save the season, he doesn’t think it’s easy, but he thinks it’s still possible.”

Wilder made over 100 appearances for United over two spells as a player and coached the club for five seasons, bringing them from League One back to the Premier League.

“Quite simply it was an opportunity which I just couldn’t turn down,” he said in a statement announcing his arrival. “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 from (chief executive) Stephen (Bettis) 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.”

Wilder was sacked as they headed towards relegation in 2021 with Heckingbottom took temporary charge to the end of that season and full charge after a six-month spell under Slavisa Jokanovic, winning promotion in his first full season as manager.

He becomes the first Premier League manager to lose his job this season.

Heckingbottom had been tipped to go since their 5-0 loss at relegation rivals Burnley on Saturday.

Bettis thanked Heckingbottom and said: “His professionalism and dedication have been a credit to the club and I’m sure all Unitedites enjoyed the promotion-winning campaign.

“However, 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 beyond this season.”

United were handed an embarrassing 8-0 home thrashing by Newcastle United in September and have five points from 14 games.

Wilder has coached at second-tier teams Middlesbrough and Watford since leaving Bramall Lane. His first match will be Wednesday’s home fixture with Liverpool.

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