Barnsley FC: ‘Ambitious’ Michael Duff set for Yorkshire return after Cheltenham exit

MICHAEL DUFF is expected to be confirmed as Barnsley’s new manager shortly after leaving League One rivals Cheltenham Town.

The 44-year-old’s appointment is understood to be close, with the former Northern Ireland international – brought up in North Yorkshire – now finalising terms with the Oakwell outfit.

Barnsley Under-23s chief Martin Devaney – caretaker head coach at the end of last season following the exit of Poya Asbaghi – is set to become the club’s first-team coach under Duff, a team-mate during their time together as players at Cheltenham.

Belfast-born Duff – who won the League Two title with the Robins in 2020-21 and was named as the division’s manager of the year – has been interviewed by Barnsley on two occasions.

Michael Duff has left Cheltenham Town, and is poised to switch to Barnsley. Picture: PA

He also spoke with Blackpool last Tuesday regarding the vacant position at Bloomfield Road.

Confirming his departure from Whaddon Road, a Cheltenham statement read: “After four years as manager of Cheltenham Town Michael Duff has today (Monday) informed the board of directors that he wishes to depart the club to pursue a new opportunity.

“Since the end of the season, the club has received two approaches from other clubs for permission to speak to Michael and one of them has now offered him the position of manager.”

Club chairman David Bloxham added: “Obviously it’s a disappointing day for Cheltenham Town as Michael has done such a tremendous job for us, but he leaves with our very best wishes for the future.

“Michael made it clear to us that it was a very difficult decision for him. We did all we could to try and keep him at the club, but ultimately this new opportunity is one that he feels it right for him at this stage of his career.

“I know it would not have been an easy decision to arrive at because Michael has built up a very special bond with our club and his family all live locally, so it will be a big wrench for him to leave, but as an ambitious young manager, we completely respect his decision.”

Barnsley had spoken to a number of candidates regarding the Oakwell position, but Duff was always viewed as the leading candidate.

The Reds also spoke with Burton Albion manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who announced his desire to stay at the Pirelli Stadium last Wednesday.

Reports have suggested that there was a mix-up in communication ahead of a scheduled remote meeting last Monday between the Dutchman and Barnsley ‘s representatives.

Barnsley are also understood to have made contact with a host of other potential candidates including former head coach Daniel Stendel and ex-Carlisle United manager Chris Beech.

Manchester United set-piece coach Eric Ramsay was another contender at one stage, while Neil Warnock was contacted about the position alongside Mick McCarthy.

Some candidates who were part of the process have also taken positions at other clubs.

Ex-Bedale High School student Duff moved to Yorkshire when he was a child.

His father John served in the RAF for many years and is an MBE, while his younger brother Shane is a former Bradford City player.

After impressing as a defender at Cheltenham, Duff – who played for North Yorkshire as a schoolboy and also Bedale AFC – moved to Burnley for a bargain £30,000 in July 2004.

He became a legend during his time at Turf Moor, winning three promotions to the Premier League in 12 years there.

Following his decision to retire from playing, Duff subsequently coached the Clarets Under-18s and Under-23s teams before returning to Cheltenham in September 2018.