Barnsley issued a statement expressing their “shock… having agreed a new contract last week.”
So quick has the process been that sacked boss Christiansen was also at Leeds’ Thorp Arch training ground on Tuesday morning to say goodbye to his players. It was understood to be an amicable departure.
But Andrea Radrizzani and the Leeds hierarchy saw past that and made no delay in paying the £500,000 release clause in the new contract Heckinbottom had signed with Barnsley four days ago.
The 40-year-old coach’s deal at Elland Road is for a year-and-a-half, with an option to extend for a further season.
Heckingbottom’s CV is impressive, taking Barnsley to promotion and winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, then keeping the Tykes in the Championship on a shoestring budget with his best players repeatedly being sold.
Barnsley chief executive Gauthier Ganaye said of Heckinbottom’s defection across Yorkshire: “Yes, it was unexpected. Yes, it has come during an already complicated period. Yes, it will make things more difficult short term but our club is full of resources and certainly not dependent on one man alone.”
Heckingbottom is taking assistant Jamie Clapham, first-team performance analyst Alex Bailey and head of sport science, Nathan Wilder, to Leeds with him.
Their first game in charge of Leeds United will be Saturday’s Yorkshire derby against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.