The 41-year-old former Barnsley and Leeds United manager has signed a three-and-a-half-year contract and will be assisted by ex-Scotland defender and Sunderland coach Robbie Stockdale.
The confirmation of Heckingbottom’s appointment came almost three weeks after the departure of Neil Lennon. The new head coach has been out of work since losing his job at Leeds last summer. He explained that part of the appeal of returning to football with Hibs was the structure in place at Easter Road, which he feels is perfectly aligned with his blueprint for prosperity.
“Lots of things attracted me to Hibs, including the set-up,” said Heckingbottom. “When you’re out of work, reflecting, looking around and taking in a lot of football, you get to see a different side of things and consider different clubs and see what good work people are doing. I always said I wouldn’t go back into work unless I thought I had a good chance of success. What Hibs try and do and how they try and do it fits really well with how I see being successful and trying to overachieve. For me, it’s a really good fit, and I think the club see it the same way. I see the structure here as an advantage. There’s been a lot of good work here over the last four or five years. You can have structures, roles and responsibilities but, if you didn’t see it fitting with how you wanted things done, it would be pointless. How I see things being done is very much the way the club sees things being done. Hopefully, that makes for a good fit.”
Heckingbottom built his reputation as a burgeoning young manager during a fruitful two-year stint at Barnsley, which incorporated a Football League Trophy triumph, promotion from League One and a mid-table finish in the Championship. He was subsequently headhunted by Leeds last February, but his tenure at Elland Road lasted only four months and 16 matches. In what will be the third senior managerial posting of his career, Heckingbottom intends to ensure Hibs play high-intensity football.
“I love to play on the front foot, press teams, be really aggressive, win the ball back high up the pitch and play forward,” he said. “My view is that there are lots of players in the Hibs squad to be able to do that. It’s our job then to put a framework together that’s going to allow them to succeed and do well and continue a lot of the work that’s been done here.”
Heckingbottom, who is set to take charge of Hibs for the first time in Saturday’s match against Hamilton Accies at Easter Road, is looking forward to working with Stockdale, the 39-year-old former Middlesbrough and Scotland player who has been a coach at Sunderland for the past four years. “Robbie’s someone I tried to take down to Barnsley,” said Heckingbottom. “He’s someone I’ve known for a lot of years and I spoke to David Moyes about him when he was at Sunderland but I wasn’t able to bring him down at that point. He’s a good coach who works well with players, developing players and has experience of managing first teams. He’s someone who understands what I want – again, he’s just a good fit.”
Heckingbottom appeared to have been beaten to the Hibs job by Michael Appleton until talks with the former Portsmouth and Oxford United broke down earlier this week over terms in his contract. Easter Road chief executive Leeann Dempster was delighted to land Heckingbottom and is hopeful that his reign in Edinburgh proves to be as progressive as his time at Barnsley.
“Paul made a really positive impression on us from our first meeting with him,” she said. “His work at Barnsley speaks for itself, where he was able to combine the kind of dynamic, attacking football our own fans appreciate with the development of some talented young players. With the structure we already have in place, Paul is the right person to embrace that support and take it to a new level.”
Chairman Rod Petrie explained how Heckingbottom made a positive impression during the interview process over the past few weeks. “We are pleased to have secured the services of Paul and Robbie,” he said. “Paul excelled throughout the interview process. He is bright, driven and hungry to help drive the club forward. As a board we will do all that we can to assist him in his endeavours.”