PAUL HECKINGBOTTOM is ready to sit down and talk about becoming Barnsley’s permanent new head coach.
The Reds sealed their return to the Championship in convincing fashion yesterday as Millwall were beaten 3-1 at Wembley.
First-half goals from Ashley Fletcher and Adam Hammill set the club on their way before Lloyd Isgrove sealed victory with 16 minutes remaining.
It meant the clinching of a notable double, Barnsley having lifted the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy just 57 days earlier at the same venue.
For Heckingbottom, who took charge in the wake of Lee Johnson quitting to join Bristol City in early February, the two Wembley triumphs represent a dream start to his time at the helm.
Barnsley’s failure to make the 38-year-old’s position permanent ahead of the final was something of a surprise, but it turns out any delays have been down to the former defender.
“We can talk now,” said Heckingbottom in the wake of helping the Reds become the first club since Grimsby Town in 1998 to win both the Trophy and promotion via the play-offs in the same season.
“We have had a lot of players out of contract. We have had that little bit of uncertainty hanging over us.
“My message to the players was always, ‘Look, put that to the back of your mind because we have bigger things to focus on’.
“Asking them to do that and be a little bit selfless to put the team first while chasing these goals and targets, I couldn’t be any different.
“My message to the club was I wanted to do the same – put it to one side and focus on achieving our targets first.
“Only then can I go and sign a contract.
“I said we would start speaking after the last game of the season. Myself and all the players can now start sorting our futures out.
“I have never hidden that (desire to do the job). If I hadn’t been here on the bench, I would have been down here watching Barnsley.”
Reds’ owner Patrick Cryne made it clear following yesterday’s triumph that the job is Heckingbottom’s if he wants it, meaning agreement is likely to be reached quickly.
“I can’t explain how proud I am of those players,” added the club’s caretaker head coach. “They will never know how proud I am of them. They are Championship players now and there on merit. They deserve it.
“There have been hard times but they have battled through.”
Report and reaction: Pages 6-7