Despite his official job title still being caretaker manager, the 38-year-old – in his first senior job in the dug-out – has proved anything but a stand-in or a novice and has already won more than many managerial and coaching contemporaries muster in a career.
Fresh from helping his hometown club lift major cup silverware for the first time in over a century against Oxford United in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on April 3, Heckingbottom has now led the Reds to the even more glittering prize of promotion back to the Championship via the play-offs, 10 years on from achieving that feat as a player at Oakwell.
His position is still officially caretaker head coach, but with the Reds’ seasonal fates now sealed, his future is top of the agenda with no distractions – and owner Cryne says the full-time job is his – if he wants it.
Cryne, who acknowledges that Heckingbottom’s success may have attracted attention from other clubs, said: “We have never had a conversation about it at any time as he’d say, ‘let’s leave it.’
“There’s never been a time in the run-up to the end of the season where we could sit down and speak about the future with any certainty where we will be.
“But the job is his for the taking if he wants it.
“I would imagine quite a few other people might want him as well. But I hope that the Barnsley pull will be enough.
“Paul has a blend of all the things you would want a manager to have. He was a tenacious footballer in his own right and knew how to tough it out on the pitch.
“But he’s also a very thoughtful and well-qualified coach with a lot of academic elements in his personality and is very thoughtful.
“But at the same time he is not overadventurous and if it isn’t broke, he doesn’t tinker with a winning formula and those are things I admire – and he is a Barnsley lad as well.”
Meanwhile, Cryne admits that Barnsley’s elevation back to the Championship and a second triumph at the home of football is the greatest moment of his tenure running the club.
Speaking after the 3-1 League One final win over Millwall, he added: “It does surpass everything, without a doubt.
“It was good to get in the Championship first time around (in 2005-06), which was very satisfying. But we weren’t as well prepared as we are this time.
“But the Championship is more difficult than it used to be, so it is going to be an interesting next year.”