Barnsley put plans for talks with Paul Heckingbottom on hold

SUCCESS: Barnsley manager Paul Heckingbottom - Picture: James Williamson
SUCCESS: Barnsley manager Paul Heckingbottom - Picture: James Williamson
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BEN MANSFORD has confirmed that discussions with Paul Heckingbottom regarding his future with Barnsley will take place swiftly after the club’s season is over.

Head coach Heckingbottom has led the Reds in a caretaker capacity for just under three-and-a-half months, impressively building on the work of Lee Johnson by clinching a play-off place in last Sunday’s 4-1 win at Wigan.

Barnsley chief executive Ben Mansford, right, with former Tykes head coach, Lee Johnson.

Barnsley chief executive Ben Mansford, right, with former Tykes head coach, Lee Johnson.

He also helped his hometown club lift cup silverware for the first time in over a century in their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy triumph at Wembley last month.

Despite those feats, the long-term future of Heckingbottom, 38 – named as the League One manager-of-the-month for February and also nominated in March – remains unresolved.

But that will be the first item on the agenda following the conclusion of the Reds’ campaign, according to Mansford.

It remains to be seen when that will be with the club facing Walsall in the League One play-off semi-finals, with the first leg staged at Oakwell on Saturday.

If they can overcome the Saddlers over two legs, the Reds will face a second Wembley appearance in under two months against either Yorkshire rivals Bradford City or Millwall on May 29 where the greater prize at stake will be promotion.

On the future of Heckingbottom, who has tasted defeat just three times in the league in 18 matches, winning 10, Mansford said: “Paul is working hard and knows how much we think of him and negotiations will take place swiftly at the appropriate time, so as not to detract from what goes on, on the pitch.

“We were quite unique in that when you usually change a manager, you need to get results.

“But the thing what we wanted to do was give Paul the opportunity to grow into the role without the pressure of needing to get results and enjoy it.

“He feels for the club and has spent time with and given his thoughts to Patrick (owner Patrick Cryne) over the years.

“He is immensely passionate about the club being the best it can be and he cares passionately about the team and it has worked well.

“He has provided the synergy after Lee left and the rest of the staff have got behind it and provided continuity.”

With the Reds about to embark on their first play-off campaign in a decade, Mansford says that he is immensely proud of the club’s remarkable transformation, crowned by top-six qualification at the DW Stadium.

Those jubilant scenes among around 4,700 visiting fans contrasted starkly with some dark and desperate days in the autumn, when the Reds equalled a club record of eight successive league defeats previously set in 1958-59 and dropped to the bottom of the table.

An embarrassing FA Cup exit at Altrincham compounded matters, but that proved a nadir for the Reds, whose about-turn has been one of the Football League stories of 2015-16.

Mansford added: “I am really pleased for everyone. The thing that has been remarkable is to have gone bottom of the league after drawing with Sheffield United and have 18 points from 20 games – and then finish the season on 74.

“Since the York City win in the JPT, to have taken over two points a game is really good and it has just come together with players getting that belief.

“You look back and there were times like with the Altrincham game where we wondered if anything was going to go right.

“But now we go into cup (play-off) football and a win-at-all-costs mentality. The guys will give their all and fans have seen that in the last six months, especially since Christmas.

“Season tickets are up and we have already sold more than the entirety of last season and that shows that we are building something to all supporters.”

Mansford estimates that promotion would be worth up to £6m for the Reds, aiming to follow in the footsteps of Andy Ritchie’s class of 2005-06 on the 10th anniversary of their elevation back to the second tier.

But whatever transpires, Mansford says that recruitment plans are well advanced, regardless of which league Barnsley will find themselves in for 2016-17.

He said: “With the central monies, promotion would probably be a good £4m plus.

“Overall, it would be worth £5m to £6m with the new TV solidarity deal.

“In terms of recruitment, we are not going to change too much. We want young dynamic players who want to play for Barnsley and see us as a real good place for their careers and families.

“The type of player we want is not going to change. More than likely, the finances will give us more chance to go and get them.

“We are very close to doing one or two things already, depending on which league we are in.

“It depends on the timing and announcement of the clubs that they might be leaving.

“We are as organised and far on with recruitment as we have been since I joined the club.”