Barnsley’s Paul Heckingbottom stays positive despite key player exits

Tykes boss Paul Heckingbottom congratulates his players after beating Leeds 3-2.
Tykes boss Paul Heckingbottom congratulates his players after beating Leeds 3-2.
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A DEFIANT Paul Heckingbottom insists there is no need to be negative at Barnsley despite the January exodus of players at Oakwell continuing yesterday.

Midfielder Conor Hourihane yesterday completed his transfer to Aston Villa – the 25-year-old signing a three-and-a-half year deal for an undisclosed fee – and follows defender James Bree and striker Sam Winnall out of the exit door this month.

Midfielder Marley Watkins this week had his transfer request rejected by the Tykes, while defender Angus MadDonald has been linked with Norwich City.

But head coach Heckingbottom believes Barnsley – who won promotion from League One last term and sit eighth in the Championship – can continue to defy the odds.

“As we are linked with selling players, and we see lots of our players leave, everyone is waiting for us to plummet and fall,” said Heckingbottom.

“It’s doom and gloom, but that’s fine and we will just keep winning our games.

“It’s the same as last year, I am not expecting us to get in the play-offs, I am not aiming for the play-offs, I am just interested in winning games.”

Barnsley are just four points off the play-offs, ahead of tomorrow’s South Yorkshire derby with Rotherham United, and their meteoric rise means they have a come a long way, from bottom of League One, in just over 12 months.

“I would rather be here, dealing with this, than be in League One,” said Heckingbottom, who has been linked with a move for Leeds United midfielder Alex Mowatt, the 22-year-old out of contrtact in the summer. “There’s not even a comparison. Don’t sulk, don’t moan, let’s just try and get better.

“We will keep looking to get good players in, and hopefully get good performances.

“With the timing of contracts, the quality of people leaving – and we have rose so quickly – we may have to take a step back to go forward. I hate that, and honestly it’s driving me mad.

“I would love to be in the position where we never take a step back, but it could be one step back and two forward.

“I don’t feel the negativity. What more do people want? They want to be seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth in the league.”

“I want that, but why would you be negative about being eighth?”

Watkins, 26, has been linked with Ipswich Town and Bristol City, and like Winnall and Hourihane, his Oakwell contract is due to expire in the summer.

But Heckingbottom insists Watkins - or any of his Reds stars - will only leave if it’s the right financial deal for the club.

“The transfer request has been knocked back, declined,” he said. “We want Marley to stay, he knows this.

“I have said to every player, I don’t want to sell and you won’t be going anywhere.

“But what does happen, if money comes in from a club - and the fee is big enough - that turns the owner’s head and from a business point of view it makes sense, then the club will look at it.

“That’s the only thing that matters. All this posturing, people saying this and that, the only thing that matters is if a bid comes in which is acceptable.

“Until then, get your head on the football and keep working hard.”

There was some good news for Tykes fans yesterday, when goalkeeper Adam Davies signed an extention to his contract to stay at Oakwell until June 2019.

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