Fletcher will make his first return to Barnsley tomorrow following his successful loan spell at Oakwell in a momentuous second half of the 2015-16 season and he is sure of a warm ovation from home supporters.
Earlier this year, Heckingbottom made no secret about the fact that he would love to re-sign Fletcher on loan from West Ham, but his efforts came to nothing with his parent club only interested in sanctioning a permanent sale if the price was right.
Boro promptly tabled a big-money offer that was accepted by the London club, with Heckingbottom casting aside his disappointment at failing to re-sign Fletcher to advise him to head north.
Heckingbottom, who will watch from the stands tomorrow, having been handed a two-match touchline ban by the Football Association after being dismissed from his technical area during the game at Millwall on September 30, said: “I would have loved to sign Ashley. But we would have needed massive help from West Ham to get him on loan.
“He actually phoned me and said, “Boro have just bid £7m for me’ and he was still, like, ‘What do I do?’ I said, ‘Get yourself there.’
“That is what we are competing against. We would have loved to have had Fletch back here and I know he would have loved to have come.
“But he has got a tremendous move, probably off the back of his time here still.
“It is one he has got to seize, to establish himself in their team, and he will be looking to get promoted with them.”
Heckingbottom, who will also be absent from the touchline in the home game with Hull City tomorrow week, confirmed that Andy Yiadom and Lloyd Isgrove could make their eagerly-anticipated return to action in tomorrow’s game with big-spending Boro.
The encounter is likely to come too early for Aston Villa loan midfielder Gary Gardner, although he is on the mend after suffering excessive bleeding in a dead leg sustained on his debut at Preston on September 9.