Leeds United have sacked head coach Paul Heckingbottom, ending weeks of speculation about his future in the job.
Heckingbottom, who is on holiday in Greece, was notified of his dismissal this morning with Leeds and owner Andrea Radrizzani calling time on his reign after just 16 games.
The 40-year-old’s position had been in doubt for the past two months amid persistent claims that Radrizzani was losing faith in a manager he appointed as recently as February.
Heckingbottom's assistant, Jamie Clapham, has also left the club along with head of fitness Noel Winder and analyst Alex Bailey. Leeds also announced today that set-piece coach Gianni Vio - recruited prior to Heckingbottom's appointment - was moving on at the end of his contract.
Managing director Angus Kinnear said: "On behalf of the board of directors at Leeds United I would like to thank Paul for the commitment and passion he has demonstrated since he joined the club earlier this year.
"Paul came to us during a difficult period in the season and has conducted himself in an exemplary manner despite results not going as any of us had hoped.
"Our objective is to bring in a head coach with more experience who can help us reach the goals we have talked about since we became custodians of the club last summer. We are confident of making a quick appointment and we thank our fans for their continued support."
Heckingbottom was chosen as a replacement for Thomas Christiansen, who Leeds sacked after 35 matches in charge, and quit the manager’s job at Barnsley to sign an 18-month deal at Elland Road.
United financed a £500,000 release clause to buy Heckingbottom out of a contract he signed at Oakwell a matter of weeks earlier but Heckingbottom failed to arrest the club’s faltering form under Christiansen and amassed just four wins as head coach. Leeds finished 13th in the Championship, 15 points behind the play-off zone.
Despite Heckingbottom blooding several youngsters from United’s academy, including goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell and left-back Tom Pearce, results under him caused concern amongst the board at Elland Road and prompted Leeds to assess other alternatives.
The club are understood to be keenly interested in Marcelo Bielsa, the former Argentina boss, and reports in Spain last night suggested that discussions with the 62-year-old were already underway.
Heckingbottom has been on holiday for the past fortnight and is not due to return to England until tomorrow. He was informed of the decision by telephone this morning having met with United’s director of football, Victor Orta, for talks in Greece yesterday.
He quit Barnsley, his boyhood club, to take over at Elland Road after exactly two years in charge at Oakwell. Barnsley won the League One play-off final and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy during the early stages of his tenure but were in the midst of a relegation battle at the time of his departure to Leeds. Barnsley dropped out of the Championship on the final day of the 2017-18 season.
Heckingbottom’s exit will leave Radrizzani searching for his fourth head coach in little over a year as owner. The next boss at Elland Road will be United’s 10th in four years.