The club's Saudi owner, Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, took the unusual step of announcing the departure of Heckingbottom on a radio station, telling talkSPORT in Britain that Chris Wilder — the manager when Sheffield United was last in the league in the 2020-21 season — has been brought back for a second spell in charge.
The club then announced the firing in a statement, but did not confirm the hiring of Wilder — only saying that it hoped to have a new manager in place before the Premier League game against Liverpool on Wednesday.
Heckingbottom's final game in charge was the 5-0 loss at fellow promoted team Burnley on Saturday, which dropped Sheffield United to last place — where Burnley was at the start of the match — and four points from safety.
Heckingbottom took over in November 2021 and led the team into the Premier League this year, but has been hamstrung this season by the sale of key players such as Sander Berge and Iliman NDiaye before the start of the campaign.
Heckingbottom appeared to reference that after the Burnley match when saying the club had “been making financial decisions rather than football decisions.”
Sheffield United chief executive Stephen Bettis thanked Heckingbottom for his role in helping the club return to the Premier League.
“His professionalism and dedication have been a credit to the club and I'm sure all Unitedites enjoyed the promotion-winning campaign," Bettis said in the club statement. “However, after slipping to the bottom of the table and a number of disappointing results and performances, it is felt that a change is needed to give the club a boost and every possible chance of remaining in the Premier League beyond this season.”
Wilder, a boyhood Sheffield United fan and former player at the club, has coached at second-division teams Middlesbrough and Watford since leaving Bramall Lane in March 2021.
He guided Sheffield United into the Premier League in 2019 and to a ninth-place finish in the 2019-20 season, during which it challenged for European qualification. The team was relegated at the end of the following season.
Prince Abdullah said Wilder was “part of Sheffield United history.”
“One thing I always like to do, not just in football but all of my businesses, is to keep a good relationship with my ex-employees no matter how it ended,” he told talkSPORT. “I think you should get over it.
“At the end of the day we're all passionate about what we do and we believe Chris is the right man for the job.”
It is unusual for the Premier League to reach early December without a manager being fired. Five coaches had been fired by this stage of the season in the past two top-flight campaigns.