COMMENT By Richard Parks
The Leeds United fans have turned on Paul Heckingbottom following no signs that he is able to arrest the decline of a team that has been in freefall since the turn of the year.
The Friday night defeat to Aston Villa further illustrated the sharp fall in fortunes of a team that had such high hopes for promotion at the turn of the year and has got worse, and not better since Heckingbottom replaced Thomas Christiansen at the start of February.
But the manager can get supporters back on side, save his job and drive Leeds towards promotion by sealing deals for two Premier League players.
Transfer specialist Alan Nixon, sports writer for The Sun, reported in a Twitter exchange with a United fan that Heckingbottom has looked to his old club Barnsley for salvation and two of the three men he’s keen to sign are affiliated to top-flight clubs – Swansea City’s Oli McBurnie and Everton’s Joe Williams – along with Andy Yiadom.
Midfield anchorman Williams, 21, has made a strong impression for struggling Barnsley this season after making the step up to senior football look a relatively easy one.
He has been a mainstay for the Tykes and demonstrated the mixture of aggression and composure that has been so lacking from Leeds’ own central midfielders this season, with the likes of Eunan O’Kane and Kalvin Phillips making it clear they are not the answer for a team with genuine promotion aspirations.
McBurnie demonstrated his potential for Swansea in the first half of the season and has destroyed opponents at Championship level, scoring seven goals from 12 league games since his arrival on loan in January.
It was a deal that Barnsley had sealed at the second attempt after Heckingbottom originally tried to prise the forward, who can play as the main striker or out wide, from the Liberty Stadium last season.
With Leeds-born McBurnie out of contract at Swansea in the summer, it is little wonder that Leeds are in hot pursuit of a player who could be the signing of the forthcoming window.
Both the 21-year-old striker and Williams would provide top solutions for problem positions at Leeds and both could play a major part in a Leeds revival under Heckingbottom.
In other Leeds United news, a 24-year-old is unlikely to play for the club ever again after recent events.