Midfielder Jacob Butterfield is the player everyone is talking about at Oakwell. Yet to sign a new contract, his form has attracted scouts from Premier League clubs, including Everton and Wolves.
If Butterfield is sold, the Tykes will definitely need a replacement in the centre of the park. Manager Keith Hill lined-up Manchester City’s Israeli international Gai Assulin several weeks ago but a loan deal was put on hold due to a minor injury.
Assulin remains interested in the possibility of a loan move to the Tykes, who will also have to discuss the future of on- loan striker Nile Ranger with Newcastle United. Ranger’s current deal expires on January 14 – just 24 hours after his next scheduled court appearance on charges of assault.
Goalkeeper Luke Steele is another Barnsley player who may attract interest from the top flight. Hill, meanwhile, has also been linked with a swoop on his former club Rochdale for midfielder Joe Thompson.
The club’s link-up with agent Willie McKay has opened the door for a wide range of transfer possibilities.
The majority of the current short-term signings (including El Hadji Diouf, Pascal Chimbonda, Herita Ilunga, and Herold Goulon) will be looking to move on to bigger clubs but McKay has a list of players willing to take their places. Senegalese midfielder Mustapha Bayal Sal could join the club from St Etienne and former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Stephan Dalmat has been offered a move from Rennes.
Billy Sharp, meanwhile, has made it clear that he wants to play in the Premier League and chairman John Ryan will honour the gentleman’s agreement to let the striker talk to anyone who is willing to pay £3m.
A new goalkeeper may also be required after Carl Ikeme’s loan spell was cut short by injury.
When Nick Barmby was unveiled as City’s caretaker manager, chairman Assem Allam stressed the money that would have been available to Nigel Pearson in January was still on the table.
It means the Tigers’ chief has scope to add to a squad that is shaping up to be strong candidates for promotion.
Just where Barmby will choose to strengthen is open to debate, though retaining the services of Robbie Brady until the end of the season is likely to be his first target. Signed on loan from Manchester United, the 21-year-old has brought pace and trickery to the KC Stadium. Barmby admits to wanting to keep Brady, who before Steve Bruce’s sacking had been linked with a possible switch to Sunderland.
One other potential area to strengthen is up front, especially as Martyn Waghorn’s return to Leicester after a loan stay truncated by a hamstring injury means City have been a striker light in recent weeks.
Just as importantly as bringing in the odd new face will be the need to hang on to their own highly-promising youngsters – particularly if, as expected, former manager Nigel Pearson comes along waving Leicester City’s cheque book under the club’s noses.
Any approaches, however, are likely to be resisted with the Tigers board being as keen as any Hull fans to keep Jack Hobbs, James Chester, Cameron Stewart et al at the KC as part of the promotion tilt.
Danny Pugh’s loan switch being turned into a £500,000 permanent move will be United’s first business of the New Year.
It is unlikely to be their last, with Simon Grayson having revealed even before Saturday’s abject defeat to Reading that Leeds had identified a host of targets.
Strengthening central midfield has to be a must, particularly with captain Jonny Howson out for up to three months with a knee injury.
Keith Andrews, who Grayson tried to sign in the summer only for him to join Ipswich Town on loan, is one target already on United’s radar.
A return of nine goals, however, is likely to make the Blackburn Rovers midfielder hot property once his temporary stay at Portman Road ends in January so Leeds are likely to face stiff competition.
Andy Keogh’s loan stint ends in the New Year and Wolves manager Mick McCarthy has already revealed the Midlands club are open to offers for a striker whose Molineux deal expires in the summer.
Perhaps Leeds’s biggest fight will be warding off interest in Robert Snodgrass, a summer target for Norwich City, and Ross McCormack, who is wanted by Wolves.
Middlesbrough enter the Christmas period in fine form and if they can emerge from the festive period unscathed they could well see themselves starting the New Year top of the league.
Manager Tony Mowbray has got his swashbuckling side playing with flair and confidence and this is down to having a settled team.
Interest in potential Premier League stars like Matthew Bates, Rhys Williams and Joe Bennet has cooled since Boro’s fine start to the campaign, however, should they fail to get promoted this season then they will be much sought after in the summer.
Rhys Williams has gone on record saying that he may be forced to look at other options in the summer if Boro fail in their strive for promotion.
A priority for manager Tony Mowbray is to add another striker. He was previously linked with Coventry striker Lucas Jutkiewicz.
At times this season, Boro have struggled to break teams down especially at the Riverside when teams come to defend in numbers.
They most certainly require a striker with a physical prescence who is capable of ruffling a few feathers.
One man’s future is likely to be the major talking point at the Galpharm Stadium as a host of clubs cast envious glances in the direction of Jordan Rhodes.
Town, however, have made it clear that promotion is the priority this term so unless a truly staggering bid comes in then the likelihood is League One’s in-form striker will be staying put.
Jon Parkin, too, could also extend his time in Huddersfield when his loan spell from Cardiff City ends early in the New Year. The same applies to Alex Bruce, who is considered surplus to requirements at Leeds.
Others whose futures may be decided in January include Jamie McCombe and Nathan Clarke, whose loan stays at Preston and Oldham respectively end early next month. Tom Clarke, too, seems destined for a future elsewhere after a stint on loan at Leyton Orient, while Danny Cadamarteri has made just one appearance from the bench all season and could be open to offers.
Manager Danny Wilson has made it clear that the Blades will have to sell in order to buy new players.
The biggest question mark surrounds the future of Welsh international striker Ched Evans whose goals this season would normally guarantee a strong level of interest from clubs in the Championship.
Evans, however, is due to stand trial for rape in March which may deter potential suitors.
Winger Stephen Quinn was a Blackpool target at the start of the season and there remains the possibility that the Tangerines will return with a fresh bid.
Both Billy Clarke and Matt Phillips have been on loan with the Blades from Blackpool and would make attractive makeweights.
Burnley and Cardiff City may fancy a go at signing Blades defender Matt Lowton and, with centre-back Chris Morgan due back from knee surgery, the Blades may also listen to offers for teenage centre-back Harry Maguire.
A deal has been agreed with Reading to sign left-back Marcus Williams subject to personal terms.
With the Owls riding high in the League One table, manager Gary Megson is in no desperate need to bolster his squad. However, the club has a number of loan players that it will be important to keep, notably Stoke City winger Ben Marshall and Wolves defender Danny Batth.
Marshall has been a revelation for the Owls but Stoke may now prefer to cash in on his talent or put his capabilities to the test with a Championship club.
Goalkeeper Stephen Bywater is another player that Megson wants to re-sign after his loan deal from Derby County expired last weekend.
There will also need to be decisions on the future of Blackpool defender Miguel Ilera, Newcastle United full-back James Tavernier, and Arsenal winger Sanchez Watt.
Midfielder James O’Connor is leaving the club and other fringe players including Daniel Jones, Clinton Morrison, and Mark Reynolds may also leave in search of regular first-team football.
As befitting a club that has had three managers in 2011, the January transfer window is likely to be a hectic time at Valley Parade.
Phil Parkinson, who succeeded Peter Jackson in September, will be keen to stamp his mark on the City squad.
A partial clear-out is likely, not least of those players who came in last summer on short-term contracts that run out in January.
Many are likely to be on their way, the list of likely departures headed by Jamie Devitt who is back training at Hull City even though still contracted to the Bantams. Michael Bryan, Jack Compton, Marcel Seip, Ricky Ravenhill and Luke Moore are the other players whose deals/loans are due to expire next month, meaning Parkinson has big decisions to make.
Another possible departure is Guy Branston, signed by Jackson but quickly deemed not to be part of Parkinson’s plans. He has spent the last three months on loan at Rotherham United and a parting of the ways seems likely.
In terms of possible arrivals, a striker remains a priority following the late collapse of a £100,000 deal to sign Charlton Athletic’s Paul Benson last month. That will not be resurrected but City are still keen to bring in a proven striker, while Parkinson is also hopeful of extending the stay of Andrew Davies.
The Middlesbrough-born defender has become a mainstay of a defence that has kept three clean sheets in a row on the road.
Manager Andy Scott is set for a busy month as he looks to freshen up his squad for an assault on the play-offs.
With five loan players coming to the end of deals, Scott has an opportunity to wheel and deal and makes it clear that new defenders will be a priority.
Guy Branston has rarely been available during his loan spell from Bradford City but Notts County full-back Jon Harley has been the pick of the bunch.
Winger Sam Wood has impressed on loan from Brentford and wants to stay while Scott also has to consider the merits of trying to keep Leicester City goalkeeper Conrad Logan and Reading striker Brett Williams.
Striker Lewis Grabban has scored 13 goals so far this season but there have been no offers for his services and Scott does not want the player to leave.
Summer signings Ben Pringle and Troy Brown have failed to impact and may be surplus to requirements.