Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom pragmatic over possible exits from Oakwell

MANAGER Paul Heckingbottom has acknowledged the inevitability of some key Barnsley players leaving in the summer.

Barnsleys captain Conor Hourihane is believed to be on the radar of Aston Villa, Celtic and Rangers (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).

The Reds are in discussions with several leading players whose deals expire in June, with that number including influential captain Conor Hourihane, last season’s top-scorer Sam Winnall and midfield player Josh Scowen.

Heckingbottom is philosophical enough to admit that the success of a number of players has given them the right to shop around and not rush into a decision on their future, but says that talks will continue in the hope of achieving positive resolutions.

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He said: “We have five or six boys who have played themselves into a great position and, from a personal point of view, they have done fantastically well and are in a position where they have to get the right contract for themselves.

“I think some will sign and stay and some will move on. That is how it will be.

“They have earned the right to do that and I do not think that there will be a quick conclusion to all of it.

“Some may be quick, some may drag on and some may go right to the summer – and some may sign or not sign right to the very end.

“From now until June, we will have ongoing discussions with five or six players.”

Plenty of speculation has already centred on Hourihane, who has been linked with Aston Villa, Celtic and Rangers, with some reports even suggesting that he has pulled the plug on further talks.

Accepting that the rumour mill will continue, Heckingbottom added: “There will be speculation and players wil be weighing up their best options and players will be playing for the best contract that they can get at Barnsley or elsewhere.

“That will be how it is. The only way around that is by tieing players down before they get into the final year of their contracts.

“With us going up, we were jumping into the unknown, so from the football club’s point of view, that was always going to be difficult to do.”

Heckingbottom has revealed he is “optimistic” about extending Newcastle United loan striker Adam Armstrong’s loan in January, with an update on the future of George Moncur likely early in the new year.