Derby County v Barnsley: Breaking point is looming for Reds chief Hill

Keith Hill
Keith Hill
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The complexities of Keith Hill’s tenure as Barnsley manager have taken yet more twists over the past 48 hours.

Within a day of saying after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Hull that he welcomed the interest reportedly being shown in him by Blackpool as a mark of respect for the job he was doing, he was on the phone to Barnsley owner Patrick Cryne.

The purpose of the call was not to hand in his notice or plead for his job after four defeats in six games, but to seek reassurance from Cryne that he was, indeed, making a good fist of the task at hand.

Hill received the confidence boost he needed. Then yesterday he said that he was fully committed to fighting on at Barnsley, should the long-term future at the club be paved with gold.

Hill is an ambitious man and a proud man. He is in charge of one of the lowest budgets in a second tier that gets richer by the year.

He feels as though his players have to over-achieve every week in order to get results and to accomplish their season’s goal of avoiding relegation, something that if they manage it he likened to “walking a tightrope with two broken legs”.

But he does not appear intent for that to be his lot at Barnsley.

There has been talk of investment coming in to Oakwell, and although such talk is merely tentative at this stage, Hill is keen for it to be realised.

“You can only work with the cloth that you have got cut for yourself,” said Hill, whose name appeared to be eliminated from the Blackpool process with chairman Karl Oyston saying he hoped to appoint someone by last night.

“That’s important for everybody to see. Other clubs and people in the football world see that, and Patrick sees that. I’m committed (to Barnsley) but there’s only so much you can endure.”

Hill senses a breaking point is on the horizon, either between himself and the board, or himself and the fans.

“There will be a breaking point where Patrick will probably have to make a decision,” said Hill, who also vowed that he would never walk away from a fight.

“Somebody once told me that to walk away from a fight once you’re in front is not the same as taking yourself out of a fighting situation. I’m a fighter, I fight for what I believe in, and I believe in what we are trying to do.

“We’re in front but people don’t realise that. I get encouragement from Patrick that we’re in front, because there’s been a significant downgrade of finances at the football club, in a cash-hungry Championship.

“We’re talking about a breaking point with my position, but in terms of we need to know long term whether there’s going to be investment or whether we are going to be continually investing in developing players.

“The ramifications for a long-term project in developing players is the possibility of getting relegated.

“Everybody has got to understand that, but I don’t think they do.

“If we want to 100 per cent guarantee our Championship status then there’s got to be financial investment.

“I’m not after any long-term assurances for my job, but there has to be an understanding. I cannot keep accepting all the bullets that are being fired at me.

“If anything changes, and the board want us to get into the play-offs, then there’s got to be serious investment, not just developing players but financially as well.”

With regards the fans and the media, whom Hill hopes will see his long-term vision amid the constraints he is working with, he added: “My job and my players keep getting questioned all the time.

“It’s a little bit unfair because this is a long-term project.

“We’re not given any respect or any sort of leeway with regards to making mistakes, myself or the players, in what is a really, really difficult league.

“We’ve got to be given support. We’ve all got to fight together, if we don’t do that we’ll end up losing.

“We will endeavour to try and improve, but it is a results business.

“But you’ve got to ask yourself would those results change if I was replaced or the players were replaced, unless there was an absolutely massive amount of investment?”

One way to help ease the situation is by guiding Barnsley to a third away win of the season at Derby tonight. Two of the Reds’ four wins have come on their travels, with the 5-0 mauling of Birmingham a result Hill and the club can rightly be proud of.

David Perkins is set to be sidelined for another four to six weeks.

Last six games: Derby DDDWLW, Barnsley LLWDLL.

Last time: Derby 1 Barnsley 1; September 27, 2011; Championship.

Referee: D Coote (Nottinghamshire).