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Paul Heckingbottom ready for ‘big opportunity’ at Leeds

The 40-year-old had been in charge of Barnsley since February 2016.

Paul Heckingbottom says he could not resist the lure of Leeds – but his switch across Yorkshire has angered Barnsley.

Leeds announced Heckingbottom as their new head coach on Tuesday, less than a week after he signed a new contract at Oakwell.

The 40-year-old, who had been in charge of Barnsley since February 2016, agreed new terms with them on Friday.

But Heckingbottom has now swapped that rolling contract for an 18-month deal at Elland Road to replace Thomas Christiansen.

Predictably the news did not go down well at Barnsley, who said in a statement: “Barnsley Football Club are thoroughly disappointed to announce that Paul Heckingbottom has joined Leeds United.”

Chief executive Gauthier Ganaye added: “Yes, it was unexpected. Yes, it has come during an already complicated period. Yes, it will make things more difficult short term, but our club is full of resources and it is certainly not dependent on one man alone.”

Heckingbottom’s backroom staff of Jamie Clapham, Nathan Winder and Alex Bailey will all be joining him at Leeds. Under-23s coach Paul Harsley has been put in caretaker charge of Barnsley.

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Burnley v Leeds United – Carabao Cup – Third Round – Turf Moor

Ahead of his first training session with his new players, Heckingbottom told Sky Sports News: “I can’t wait to get started.

“It’s a big opportunity at a big football club and it’s something that you work hard for.

“What appealed was the size of the club. When I spoke to Victor (Orta, director of football) and the owners they were aligned with what I was thinking and how I liked to work.

“I’m presuming that’s the reason they thought I was right for the job as well, because I’m aligned with how they like to work, so hopefully that will be good for us going forward.”

Christiansen was sacked on Sunday after a 4-1 home defeat by Cardiff which made it seven matches without a win.

That poor run included an embarrassing third-round FA Cup exit at the hands of League Two Newport.

Leeds began the season with a seven-game unbeaten run, raising hopes of a promotion push, but they have slipped to 10th in the Championship.

Heckingbottom will be expected to swap Barnsley’s relegation battle for an assault on the play-offs – Leeds are currently six points behind sixth-placed Bristol City.

Heckingbottom will begin his Leeds tenure with a Yorkshire derby against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday. Barnsley will be the visitors to Elland Road on April 21.

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