A FAIR few Barnsley supporters would probably indulge in a spot of schadenfreude if the Reds successfully preyed upon the relegation nerves of Lee Johnson’s Bristol City and triumphed at Ashton Gate this afternoon.
While Johnson’s old club are ensconced in mid-table comfort, the 18th-placed Robins still have work to do in their Championship survival quest, with the West Country outfit being four points above third-from-bottom Blackburn with three matches left.
Johnson left Barnsley after the lure of Severnside proved too much in February, 2016 – and he received a decidedly mixed reception at Oakwell in November, but Heckingbottom insists that the personal aspect to Saturday’s game is secondary to him.
Heckingbottom, who took on the baton and led Barnsley to two Wembley wins following Johnson’s exit, said: “When we played Bristol here, I thought the reception was 50-50 for Jonno. He got stick off quite a few and quite a few were glad to see him back.
“I think we have passed that now. Although maybe there is (some edge), I don’t know. But I am certainly not feeling that.”
City may have endured some decidedly fraught moments in the Championship this season, just as Johnson did at Barnsley in his time in charge, but the tenacity shown by the 35-year-old is again shining through just as it did at Oakwell, allied to some unstinting boardroom support.
Heckingbottom believes Johnson’s side will survive this term, even if Barnsley win today.
He added: “I know how well prepared Bristol are going to be and how hard he is working all the time because I have witnessed him doing that here.
“I remember the effort and hours he put in and remember during our bad run (in 2015-16) thinking: ‘What more can we do?’ and that type of thing as we were doing everything and I know that he was.
“Then we saw the rewards come through hard work and the fact we preserved and worked our socks off and I think that is why Bristol will stay up this season as he will be doing exactly the same again.”
I think we have passed that now. Although maybe there is (some edge), I don’t know. But I am certainly not feeling that.Barnsley boss, Paul heckingbottom