David Flitcroft has urged the Barnsley board to appoint a new manager as soon as possible, even though he knows it will not be him.
Keith Hill’s former assistant is the man tasked with motivating the Reds for tomorrow’s Yorkshire derby with Leeds United despite the board appearing to have little faith in him being the long-term solution.
Barnsley want an experienced man to steer them out of the Championship relegation zone, but have endured a chastening week with first Sean O’Driscoll and then Terry Butcher turning them down.
Managing director Don Rowing and the club’s board met last night to discuss their next move, with Gary Megson and Kevin Blackwell still believed to be in the running.
Flitcroft, though, has been left in the dark about the position and looks to have little future at the club beyond this weekend.
“I’ve not spoken to Don for about four or five days. My only talks have been with Patrick (Cryne – owner),” said the 38-year-old.
“I’ve got a super relationship with the owner.
“He just keeps telling me to keep planning meticulously. He just emphasises that and that’s what I’m doing.
“Sometimes it is better not knowing because what it can do is confuse your planning.
“Not being in the loop has probably helped. If you start clouding your judgment then it’s not ideal.
“I’ve not been given any assurances, but I have not asked for any.
“The assurance for me is I’ll be in football, whether that’s at Barnsley or not.”
Flitcroft has been planning for tomorrow’s crucial game with Leeds since the weekend’s 1-0 win over Burnley in the FA Cup, not knowing from one day to the next whether it will be his last with the Tykes.
“I even introduced myself back to the players on Tuesday and then said some goodbyes later that day, so it’s been a strange week,” he said.
“From a playing aspect it’s been a normal week, but from a mental aspect it’s just been cloudy.
“The players need clarity now because they’re in limbo.
“I’m not in limbo. When I get relinquished from this job another opportunity will turn up, I’m sure of that.
“But there’s two managers who have not taken this job and it’s going to be a difficult job for whoever does take it.
“It needs someone to get hold of the reins pretty quick because we’re running out of time, and that’s my fear for this football club.
“The transfer window is closing. A lot of managers have been planning since November for this month, which is a really strategic time.”
With no long-term vision in place, the only activity in the January transfer window at Oakwell has been outgoing.
Craig Davies has joined Bolton Wanderers while Scott Wiseman has been forced to return to Oakwell. Barnsley accepted an offer for him earlier in the week only for the player’s talks with Blackpool to break down.
Rowing and the board met last night to consider their next move over the managerial appointment.
Last Friday the club said they had whittled the shortlist down to five, but with two of those now having rejected the chance and Barnsley no further down the line, it remains to be seen whether the other initial applicants are still interested in taking charge of a club that is four points from safety with 20 games left.
Rowing said: “We are taking stock of what’s happened. We have to be very careful now that we make the right decision. We thought one of the two men we approached would have taken the job but that has not materialised.
“It has been a very disappointing week, but we are not going to be deterred.”
In West Yorkshire, preparations for the White Rose derby were progressing far more serenely for Leeds United, who yesterday strengthened their midfield options with the permanent signing of Michael Tonge.
Tonge, 29, spent three months on loan at Elland Road earlier in the season and has joined for an undisclosed fee from Stoke, on a two-and-a-half-year deal.
Leeds manager Neil Warnock said: “‘Tongey’ showed what an important member of the squad he is.
“I’m delighted we’ve been able to agree things with Stoke to bring him here permanently.
“I think people saw Michael get better as time went on and you could see what he brought to the side.”
Warnock does not want his spending to stop there, no matter how infuriating he is finding the transfer window.
“We’re looking for another couple of players to mix things up and they’re the most difficult ones to get,” said Warnock, who will meet the club’s board today to discuss targets.
“I’ve already spoken about seven or eight players and, quite honestly, they’re not for sale, no matter that agents are telling me that they’re all available.
“We’ve got to come up with people who are available or who we can get with a transfer fee.”
Warnock also revealed the club have received enquiries about midfielder Danny Pugh and full-back Paul Connolly.