Stuart McCall: Blackpool exit for Sheffield United role wasn't an easy decision

Stuart McCall says his decision to leave Blackpool after just four months was not an easy one at all.

Friday, 3rd December 2021, 12:30 pm

Out of the blue, the club’s assistant left Bloomfield Road last week to become the number two to Paul Heckingbottom at Sheffield United.

The 57-year-old, who previously played and coached at Bramall Lane, admits he had to weigh up his options when the opportunity came his way.

“I kept in touch with Paul over the years and I got a call from him a couple of days before for a catch-up,” McCall told The Gazette.

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“He asked if I would contemplate joining him in the future if he got a job to work with him somewhere down the line – and I mean well down the line.

“Then on the Wednesday, after Sheffield United won at Reading, I got another phone call right out of the blue.

“He told me he was going to be taking over and he asked if I’d be interested in joining him as his assistant.

“It caught me a little bit by surprise. I was enjoying my time at Blackpool, I was just getting my feet in the door and was beginning to forge some good relationships with staff and the players.

“When I weighed it up, it’s an hour from my home in Harrogate, it’s my old club, I know Paul and I’m going in as assistant and will be doing a bit more on the training ground.

“I’ve got to say, it wasn’t an easy decision because I did enjoy my time so much at Blackpool but I had to make my mind up there and then really.

“I’ve been staying in a hotel at Blackpool twice a week which is fine, but with the weather getting how it is and the roads getting poor, sometimes it can take me an hour and 45 minutes to two hours.

“I knew that before I joined though, so that wasn’t the main reason, but I’ve gone back to a club I know well, plus it’s more local for me.”

McCall first arrived at Blackpool in July as the replacement for Colin Calderwood, who also opted to move closer to home with his former club Northampton Town.

While McCall knew from the start he wouldn’t be as hands-on on the training field as he was in previous roles, the chance to do that with Sheffield United was something that enticed him.

“Since I’ve been working with Neil (Critchley, Blackpool head coach) and Mick (Garrity, assistant head coach) I’ve found out how good a pair of coaches they are,” the former Scotland international added.

“There’s obviously Banksy (Steve Banks, goalkeeping coach) as well who I know well, two good analysts, backroom staff…

“I just wanted to do a little bit more on the grass myself and the opportunity to do that here was as appealing as anything really.

“I really enjoyed working with the lads, I’ve learned a lot off them. You pick up the odd thing, training methods etc.

“It was sad to go in on Thursday morning and drop a bombshell to the staff. It was quite emotional actually when I spoke to Neil and a few of his staff.

“In a short period of time, I did become attached to the club so it wasn’t like I was looking to jump out at any time.

“I thought I’d be there for the long term, but this offer just came out of the blue and I couldn’t turn it down. I’ll be at home every day which, for the family life, is good.”

For his part, Critchley paid tribute to McCall and expressed surprise at his sudden departure.

The head coach said: “I really enjoyed working with Stuart while it lasted. It was short but sweet.

“It was completely out of the blue for him and us. He came in on Thursday, having spoken to Sheffield United, and logistically it worked for him and Sheffield United being a former club of his.

“Both coaching-wise and playing-wise, he felt it was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down.

“It was tough for him. I know it was a tough decision, but I wish Stuart all the best because he was fantastic to work with.”

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