BACK me or sack me – that is the emphatic message from embattled Barnsley manager Keith Hill to the club’s board amid ongoing question marks surrounding his Oakwell future.
The Reds head into tomorrow tea-time’s South Yorkshire derby with visiting Sheffield Wednesday on the back of a 10-match winless Championship streak and if they lose to the Owls, they could drop to second-from-bottom.
Hill’s future has been under the microscope since the end of September, when some reports suggested he would be axed if potential new Italian owners took over at Barnsley – despite just leading the club to a 5-0 televised win at Birmingham.
Since the St Andrews victory, Barnsley have won once in 14 matches and are currently without a win in almost two months, since beating Charlton on October 20.
Some fans have been calling for Hill to be axed and only last month the Reds manager spoke about a ‘breaking point’ looming regarding his own position.
The former Rochdale chief, operating under one of the lowest budgets in the Championship with the club’s average gate of 9,866 the second-lowest in the division behind Peterborough United, remains bullish that he is the best man for the Oakwell job and is pledging to fight on.
But he has consistently stressed there is no magic formula in terms of transforming the club’s fortunes, with – as it stands – yearly survival in the division an achievement in itself, in the view of the 43-year-old.
Despite many of the club’s supporters appreciating Hill’s situation, others have not been so forgiving and a bad derby result against fellow strugglers Wednesday would increase the clamour from some to replace him.
He said: “If the club is going to sack me, they should sack me now. It is as simple as that.
“If there is a plan for the future and the here and now, let’s stick with it. But if there is a call for my head and the (club) management team feel as though I should be sacked, then don’t keep dithering and waiting – sack me.
“I know what plan I am in, which is retaining our Championship status and trying to build progressively over a number of years.
“Eighteen months ago, we decided which way the club will be directed. Financially, from my point of view, our strategy and vision for the football club has not changed.
“If my job is dictated by the recent run of results, fair enough. But if I was brought here to create an identity and vision to integrate youth and academy players to the first team, while dealing with the Financial Fair Play situation, is it (fair)?
“There is a tradition at Barnsley Football Club to sack managers when the club is in this type of form.
“The club has been in this place so many times and has anything really changed?
“Managers come and go (here), it seems to be a tradition to sack a manager; you cannot expect to sack a manager and things to be put right.”
On any specific notions of extra pressure ahead of tomorrow’s televised clash with near-neighbours and fellow strugglers Wednesday, Hill – whose side have won just eight league games out of 43 so far this calendar year – said: “There is pressure in the game from supporters and what they expect from the game and on the players and me to select the side.
“But it is ridiculous to put things on one game. But that is modern-day management.”
Meanwhile, Hill says that Egyptian striker Mido is close to finalising his exit from Oakwell, with his summer move to the club having been an unmitigated calamity.
The former Spurs and Middlesbrough forward, who joined on a one-year deal in June from Zamalek, has tasted just 27 minutes of competitive action due to a serious hamstring injury sustained in pre-season allied to ongoing issues regarding his fitness levels and weight.
Last week, the 29-year-old – reportedly on a weekly salary of £4,000 – was also disciplined by club bosses after posting an anti-semitic message on his Twitter account while displaying a photo of himself at a protest against Israel at Westminster, during time in the capital to see an injury specialist.
The picture and message was subsequently deleted by the player, but he was fined and warned about his future conduct.
Hill said: “It’s a definite possibility that he could be going. We are discussing it with his representatives at the moment.
“He is someone who has played at the highest level in most leagues in Europe.
“At 29, having fallen part-way down the footballing tree, I thought we could possibly reinstate him. It just has not worked out.
“It has certainly given me an insight into the calibre of player Mido is. No question, he stills maintains that ability and pedigree. That is what you want to work with. But you have got to be compatible with a manager’s vision.
“I thought we were compatible and ignored a lot of people because I thought we had both reached a place where we would both engage on a plan of resurrection.
“It just has not happened and I do not think anyone is to blame.”