Sheffield United have confirmed the departure of manager Chris Wilder by mutual consent, with the club languishing at the foot of the Premier League table and destined for the drop.
Speculation had mounted over Wilder’s future on Friday, when the Blades’ media duties were cancelled.
Wilder, who enjoyed great success after taking charge of his boyhood club in 2016 and guiding them from League One to the top flight, leaves with the Blades 12 points from safety with 10 games remaining this season.
“We are confident that all Blades fans around the world will join us in thanking Chris for his hard work, commitment and expertise in driving the club,” a club statement read.
“Now the club will turn its attention to completing the season as strongly as possible and if we are relegated, to preparing for the Championship.”
Tensions between 53-year-old Wilder and club owner Abdullah Bin Musa’ad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud have heightened recently.
According to some reports, there had been clashes with ownership over plans to appoint a director of football, with Prince Abdullah feeling Wilder’s recruitment record has been below par.
Only last week, Wilder stated he did not know if he would still be in charge next season, despite confirming he wanted to remain at Bramall Lane if the board and owners “stick to the plan”.
The Blades were a revelation last season on their return to the Premier League, finishing ninth, and have reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, where they travel to Chelsea next weekend.
But this season has been a struggle on the league front.
“Being manager of Sheffield United has been a special journey and one I’ll never forget,” Wilder said in quotes published on the club’s website.
“I was delighted to be given the opportunity back in 2016 and have been delighted with the success which we have achieved, including two promotions and a highest ever Premier League finish.”
Sheffield United confirmed under-23s manager Paul Heckingbottom would be taking charge of the first team for their away game at Leicester City on Sunday.
The former Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian manager is set to remain in charge for the remainder of the 2020-21 campaign, the club added, with Jason Tindall – sacked by Bournemouth just last month – to join Alan Knill as part of the backroom staff.