With the fans largely against him and the board looking elsewhere for their new manager, Barnsley’s caretaker chief David Flitcroft has been getting by with a little help from his friends.
Harry Redknapp, Gianfranco Zola and Roberto Martinez are just three of the men Flitcroft has been leaning upon in his hour of need.
The 38-year-old has been isolated at Oakwell.
The last man standing from the failed regime of Keith Hill, he is only in charge for today’s Yorkshire derby with Leeds United because Sean O’Driscoll and Terry Butcher turned down Barnsley.
The board have not kept him abreast of developments, with the only communication being a pep talk from owner Patrick Cryne to focus on the three points available today.
So he has got on the phone in search of external help.
“Harry Redknapp and Gianfranco Zola offered me some massive support,” said Flitcroft, who is also indebted to the help of Micky Mellon and Martin Scott, whom he has brought in to assist with the coaching.
“I’ve got a lot of great friends in football.
“I also spoke to Roberto Martinez. They’re all managers who play systems I want to explore while I’m in charge of this football club.
“They gave me some great advice and have been incredibly helpful. Martinez is one of the greatest coaches in the country right now, Zola is going that way and Harry has been for a number of years.
“Because Barnsley’s manager search has been so public, they see me trying to make my way and they want to offer that support.
“You can’t have a conversation with those three managers and not draw wisdom, so I try to take in as much as I can.
“I met them all through football, and on courses. If you have the same ideology as managers, you warm to them.
“You gravitate to certain people and that’s where those relationships have come from.”
If the majority of the Oakwell faithful are questioning why Flitcroft is still at the club, the players appear behind him, with goalkeeper Luke Steele this week speaking out in support of the caretaker manager.
It is through those players who will wear the red of Barnsley today that Flitcroft hopes to galvanise the club.
“I know the fans don’t want to see me in the dugout, they want to see a manager who can get them out of trouble,” said Flitcroft, who led Barnsley to their first FA Cup win in five years last week.
“But while I’m in it, let’s just support the players on the pitch. If you’re not going to support me, don’t, I can handle that, but the players are going to need that support.
“I saw it the other night at the Chelsea game; everything’s wrong at that club, they’re having trouble with the Frank Lampard situation, the Fernando Torres situation, they’re almost wanting the team to get beaten down at Chelsea so they can prove a point.
“We can’t get to a situation like that. Whatever happens, I’m not in control of it and neither are the fans, so until we know what’s happening let’s get behind that group of players because they’re fighting for those fans.
“The fans and the players need each other more than ever. It’s a chance to get behind your local team.
“If my best is good enough then the fans will see that, but, at the minute, I’m trying everything in my power to get three points for this football club and this set of supporters.
“I understand the passion and what these fans are going through.”
As tough as he is finding the experience, with its extra demands and uncertain conclusion, Flitcroft at least feels that he is growing into the role.
“It’s a dream opportunity and I’ve grasped it,” he said. “I never thought I’d be leading a team out in the Championship against Leeds in a derby that means everything to this group of players and this set of fans.
“That’s how I’m seeing it. In a crazy way, if I’d have gone with Keith I’d have never have known that, but over the last 10 days I have found that I am ready for this.
“In the last 10 days I’ve found out more about myself than I ever thought I would. There’s nothing but positives that have come from this situation.”
Flitcroft’s isolation from the circus surrounding the managerial appointment has at least enabled him to focus all his energy on preparing the players for today’s huge game.
“I’ve got to galvanise this group and make them feel that even though there is uncertainty in the future of the club, there’s more certainty on Leeds,” said Flitcroft, who has temporarily inherited a side that sits at the foot of the Championship, four points from safety.
“It’s not as though I’ve come in today fresh, we’ve been planning for this game since the day after the Burnley game.
“I’ll give them as much information as I can on Leeds and set a game plan out to beat them so come 3pm there’s going to be no uncertainty.
“It’s been very public that we’ve recruited from Leagues One and Two and those boys don’t want to go back there.
“They’ve worked so hard to play in the Championship and represent Barnsley and that’s the stimulus that I’ll be using to get the team out of the trouble we’re in. They’re fighting and they’ve got to continue to fight.”
Barnsley’s board met on Thursday night to take stock of the managerial search and intend to continue it early next week.