Aggression, Consistency & Intensity: Heckingbottom’s Ethos is Leeds Through & Through – by Rob Atkinson


Paul Heckingbottom: happy and honoured to be here

Paul Heckingbottom‘s performance as Head Coach in the first few days since his whirlwind move from Barnsley to Leeds United could hardly have gone better. Of course he’s only been talking the talk so far; the serious stuff, the walking of the walk, starts on Saturday, High Noon at Bramall Lane, with a Yorkshire Derby against Sheffield United. Still, in advance of that baptism of fire, the new Leeds boss has excelled as he set out his stall to players, press and fans, hammering home his message to great effect.

Let’s be in no doubt: for a Royston lad who grew up as a Barnsley fan hating Leeds United, Paul gets what our club is all about. His emphasis on qualities such as consistency, aggression and intensity could be taken from Page One of any United fanatic’s Leeds-supporting handbook. These are the ideals we hold dear, the characteristics we love and expect to be hated for. Without these principles, forged through blood, sweat and tears, there would be no modern Leeds United. They’re written into the DNA of the club – and now we have a man who appears to have the same list of attributes carved upon his heart.

It’s no mealy-mouthed recitation of what he knows we want to hear, either. The qualities espoused by Heckingbottom don’t fall from his mouth like lazy platitudes, but as the solid structure behind his footballing philosophy. Aggression with and without the ball. Consistency being the golden key to league success. Intensity, the way to the fans’ collective heart. These are the principles that can lead to success for what is a talented squad. How long it will take to establish such a pattern is another matter entirely.

For the time being, though, the task of showing us all exactly what we’ve got in Heckingbottom is well under way. Already, social media doubters and naysayers are swinging into line and declaring themselves won over. That’s not a bad start before a ball is kicked. The new Leeds boss has a disarming manner about him too, when asked about the pressure that goes with working at what is perceived as a sack-happy club, he gives us the anecdote of how he tells his kids not to worry about Dad getting the sack as, if he does, they’ll all be going on holiday. We even understand his childhood hatred of United; having seven shades kicked out of you in the field behind your Mam’s house by bigger, older Leeds fans is not calculated to endear a lad to that lot up the M1. But now, those same Leeds fans are ringing to wish him luck and success at Elland Road. It’s gone full circle, and – so far, at any rate – it feels right.

I’ve certainly not heard a better Leeds United philosophy since the early, heady days of Sergeant Wilko, who breezed into a troubled Elland Road from South Yorkshire thirty years ago, and did really quite well. As a precedent, the Wilko example is not a bad one for Paul Heckingbottom to emulate, though he appears happily to be very much his own man. But he has the same air of confidence and self-assurance about him; the same conviction that his way is the right way, hopefully with the same ability to carry others along on the path he treads.

It’s early days, and the sadness that accompanied the departure of Thomas Christiansen, a genuinely nice guy, has barely begun to dissipate. But in football, you always look forward, even when making comparisons with former Leeds legends. In Hecky, a coach who sets so much store by “getting on the grass” to work with his players, we might well have found at last a round peg for the round hole that is Elland Road. This is a bloke who was doing too much at Barnsley of what he didn’t really want to be doing – now he has the chance, in this Leeds United structure, of concentrating on what he does best.

It should work well; let’s all get behind the guy in the fervent hope that it will.

20 responses to “Aggression, Consistency & Intensity: Heckingbottom’s Ethos is Leeds Through & Through – by Rob Atkinson

  1. ‘Agree totally! When teams with less talent can kick the shit out of us we need a manager who has experience of the dark side of Championship football to lead us out of our current losing streak. Whether his impact will be immediate is moot, we may not get a real chance to assess his until our key players return, but Saturday’s game should give us a steer on Hegingbottom’s ethos of “aggression, consistency and intensity”.


  2. gerry hobbs

    Smack on Rob!


  3. kind sniffer

    Agree 100% Rob. I think like most, I was initially underwhelmed, but having watched his interviews I’m a bona fide convert. Looking forward to the new era with optimism. He’s not been provided with the best starter for ten, but let’s all bear that in mind and get behind him.


  4. players are like children, some need their hands held some needs a kick up the arse, all our players need a good kick up the arse for the way they have played and behaved so far this season, I HOPE YOU CAN SWING A LEG PAUL.


  5. Paul Pearson

    I’v been looking forward to a post from you Rob Re our new coach and your thoughts very much aligned with my own, I think this is a good appointment for Leeds a true Yorkshire man that won’t pander to tired players, a coach that will not stand for needless red cards, bollocks to sunny Spain and get the players out in the snow kind of guy, a guy with a solid work ethic who’s not here simply to top up his retirement fund, and at last a manager that wasn’t on the dole.


  6. Reality Cheque

    I think the key to this appointment Rob, may be the long hours Paul spent thrashing out what he will accept and embrace and what he definitely will not accept from our Director of Football, players, coaching staff etc., Confirmation of his appointment only came after a long night of negotiations between Paul and his potential new employers, and within hours Mr Radrizzani was going public on what had not been acceptable under TC’s tenure and declaring that decisions will be made regarding which players are not good enough to remain at the club. Was he reading from Paul Heckingbottom’s script and reinforcing the fact that all the players are going to have to up their game now that we have a more demanding and determined head coach who is familiar with the Championship “territory” and will not accept lack of effort, unity or ill discipline?

    PH has truly been handed a baptism of fire facing a lengthy run of the toughest fixture list of the season, with a depleted first team squad low in confidence which extends up until the very last month of the season. As the saying goes; When the going gets tough, the tough get going” but if we are to “get going” Paul is going to have to quickly instil much more aggression, resilience and passion than many of our performances under TC displayed.
    Fingers and toes crossed for Saturday’s derby.


  7. Scally Lad

    He’s such a welcome replacement for TC who induced in me nothing but despair from the moment of his appointment. Let’s hope this comes in time to deliver us to the playoffs and reverse this slide down the table to yet another year of obscurity and failure.


  8. We have a very talented squad here, let’s start by giving those DeeDaas a good thrashing, MOT ALAW.


  9. Life is LUFC

    The players all owe TC an apology for their childish actions they all displayed most of this season. They owe the fans an even bigger apology. TC left this club with real dignity, held his head high and conducted himself as a real professional. Not many of our players can lay claim to that kind of drum role.
    They all know who they are and as far as I am concerned they all need a nanny to hold their hands and tell them they must not be naughty boys. The only exceptions I will allow are those that joined the club in January.
    I hope PH gives them all good kick up the backside because they deserve it.
    The stupid red cards resulting in lost points, asking to come off because I am tired, getting injured and having to be stretchered off then running around like a two year old a couple of days later.
    OK TC could have been more harsh with them but for goodness they are grown men not toddlers. Yes TC did make decisions that made no sense but he tried hard to get things right. Sadly Leeds was not the right club for him and he was not the right manager for Leeds but he gave his all more than the players have. TC cannot carry all the blame for the results to date, others should be holding their hands up for their share of the shambles.
    I wish PH good luck he sounds like the man this club needs and go ahead give those players a training session they will never forget in the freezing cold, rain and snow.
    I feel better for that. Thank you Rob.


  10. Gordon baxendale

    Exactly the stance that the young DON took when he took over a potentially league one team and took us all the way to being the legends that we came to be.
    Good luck to both him and the players as they take on the mantle, unfortunately didn’t enjoy my 71st anniversary game as we lost 3-4 but hey what a screamer from Lasogga.


  11. I’m chuffed with this appointment, Rob. Makes a welcome change to hear a British coach come out and say he just wants to spend his time on the grass coaching players. Very forward-thinking in my opinion. Oh, and being a Yorkshireman is no bad thing either!


  12. You have once again perfectly encapsulated the mood of the reasonable fan as opposed to the rants of gormless Twitterati” that is. Of course it’s early days and nothing has actually happened on the field but on first impressions I like the cut of PH jib. Thomas Christiansen, was as you said “a genuinely nice guy” but always seems to be a weak type of character when it comes to presence. I hope this time we have got it right – jury’s out – but here’s hoping for the umpteenth time.


  13. I was initially a bit underwhelmed by the appointment seeing as Barnsley are struggling at the mo etc and the expectations at Leeds run higher than surviving in the Championship. However PH’s experience of this league and his record with developing players got my hopes up. The fact he is not a Leeds ‘fan’ may even be a plus point.
    It will be interesting to see if he can improve the performance of the current squad and hopefully bring some of the U23’s through. He may have ‘hated’ Leeds but let’s face it for the best part of 15 years I haven’t been too impressed either. Cheers Rob another good read.


  14. I support Man U and I’ve been crying in my cot all night WAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH 👶


  15. Rob, I read your stuff regular, as a Barnsley fan , you’ll see I’ve posted before,
    I find it usually on the money” as far as showing the vibe from your club…..I’ve read yours and some of the replies and frankly I’m really surprised that you see him as a potential saviour amd not a man who is not here to “top up his pension” etc.
    This is not a man who has a vision. HIs tactics and game awareness led to a humiliating defeat at our place ‘‘this season, and a shocking performance at yours last season….( even with our so called stars who were later to depart for new pastures].Now I’ve nowt against LUFC…No agenda, I detest Huddersfield Town, but I’m sorry lads, you will see through him in ten games,
    A good act, smoke and mirrors. Yet there will be no Rabbit out of the hat…. amd I’m shocked that you are all pleased with his appointment!
    I’ll be back at the end of April mate…. we may be down by then…. you won’t…. but his stubbornness, and not the lack of money, and backing will have put us there, he had the players this season to get us safe by now. His tactics, and poor game management left us where we are today.
    You’d have been better going for Tommy Wright… Because since he left our club under a cloud, Hecky hasn’t had a clue.


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