By Wayne Veysey

5th Feb, 2018 | 12:59pm

Shock Leeds move for manager with release clause lined up, he can oversee top-six finish - Verdict

COMMENT By Richard Parks
The sense is that the Leeds United hierarchy have already decided upon the identity of their new manager and it is now a matter of agreeing terms and finalising the paperwork.
United’s top brass acted swiftly in the wake of Saturday’s 4-1 defeat to Cardiff City, calling a halt to Thomas Christiansen’s 35-match tenure little over 24 hours later.
The club are privately briefing that a new man will be appointed well in time for Saturday lunchtime’s Yorkshire derby, most likely in the next 48 hours.
That strongly suggests a deal in principle has been agreed and an announcement can be expected by Wednesday at the latest.
Gordon Strachan is the current bookmakers’ favourite but, despite his strong Leeds connections as one of the club’s greatest players, his mixed managerial record is not to everyone’s taste.
A far better move would be to poach the manager of Yorkshire rivals, Barnsley, the hugely impressive Paul Heckingbottom.
Football Insider exclusively broke the news at 8.40pm yesterday that United were to dispense with the services of Christiansen, which was confirmed in an official statement nearly an hour later.
A well-placed source close to the club has now told Football Insider that Leeds are lining up a shock move for Heckingbottom even though he only recently signed a new rolling contract at Barnsley three days ago.
United are considering whether to activate 40-year-old’s significant release clause as they weigh up an official swoop.
It would be a sensible move and a smarter one than appointing Strachan, Steve McClaren, Paul Grayson or Jaap Stam, the others most strongly linked with the post since Christiansen was given his marching orders.
Former defender Heckingbottom is regarded as one of the brightest young coaches in England after impressing in his role at Barnsley.
The 40-year-old initially took over in a caretaker capacity and guided the Tykes to League One promotion in the 2015/16 season and victory in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy while serving on an interim basis before being appointed as the club’s head coach in June 2016.
Heckingbottom steered Barnsley to a highly creditable 14th place finish in the Championship last season despite operating with one of the smallest budgets in the league and selling star play Conor Hourihane to Aston Villa in the January window.
The Tykes have not fared as well this season and are 21st in the division, 17 points behind Leeds, but the manager has been forced to operate with one hand tied behind his back in the transfer market as he continually sees the team’s best players leave.
Heckingbottom is a coach of immense potential. He knows the Championship well, is said to be hard working to a fault and has a track record of developing players and unearthing gems, something that is crucial to Leeds’ recruitment model of investing in youthful talent.
Villa duo Hourihane and James Bree, Swansea’s Alfie Mawson and Middlesbrough’s Ashley Fletcher are among those who have thrived under the watch of the Manchester United academy product.
Leeds could secure a top-six spot if they appoint Heckingbottom this week.
In other Leeds United news, a 48-year-old has been installed as the huge favourite to be the club’s next manager.

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