PAUL HECKINGBOTTOM believes that Barnsley must heed the lessons of the current transfer window and ensure they adequately plan to avoid a similar eventuality ever arising again at Oakwell.
The Reds face a tough televised Championship derby against an in-form Leeds United at Oakwell on Saturday night (5.30pm), with speculation continuing to rage regarding the futures of several leading players.
Following the exit of Sam Winnall to Sheffield Wednesday, captain Conor Hourihane is poised to become the next significant departure with Aston Villa remaining confident of finalising his transfer.
Like Winnall, Hourihane had entered into the final six months of his Oakwell contract without fresh terms being agreed, with several other players, including Josh Scowen and Marley Watkins being in the same situation.
With the likes of Marc Roberts, James Bree and Angus McDonald also attracting interest, Barnsley are in danger of being under siege from rival clubs in the run-up to the close of business on January 31.
Matters have been further compounded by the recent exit of chief executive Linton Brown with head coach Heckingbottom admitting that the situation the club finds itself in must not be repeated.
“All the planning that you do gets focused around your windows now,” said Heckingbottom.
“You always want to push on and the ideal is being able to push on without taking any steps back. At the minute, we have taken a small step back and may have to take (further) steps back to drive forward again.
“But I would love to never have to take a step back and have everything in sync, pushing in the right direction and every decision already made before you actually know what is happening. That is the utopia you want to be aiming for.
“Everyone knows what situation we were in and there was nothing else that was going to happen. If we perform well, people are going to look at our players. If they are not tied down, the club are going to have a decision to make when they go.
“Our ultimate goal has to be when we have transition in a group of players or team, it is done within a structured plan. That is what we have to aim for. We have lots of players out of contract and the more we keep, the better.
“If players are out of contract and want to run their contract down, there is nothing we can do apart from make them an offer. If they think that offer is less than what they can get somewhere else and they want to go for the money, they will go for the money.”
For the second successive occasion, Barnsley head into a derby with Leeds on the back of significant disruption with the sacking of first-team coach Tommy Wright following allegations of football corruption dominating the pre-match agenda ahead of the pair’s Elland Road meeting on October 1.
Despite a far from seamless week in comparison to Leeds, Heckingbottom, for his part, has stressed that Saturday’s game is one that he is embracing, while acknowledging the extent of his side’s task against the Championship’s form side.
He added: “We have lost players and Leeds are thriving. But our results and performances have been good.
“The atmosphere and occasion makes it a bit of a one-off and it is one of the games that I have personally been looking forward to this season as I know what the atmosphere is going to be like.
“The game is going to be tough. Leeds have some good players and a good team ethic, which you cannot get anywhere without. You can see why they have climbed the table. They are really professional and well organised.
“Garry (Monk) has focused on the team and the ethic and players that don’t fit into that don’t play anymore. Credit to him, he is the big reason why they have been climbing the league.”
Heckingbottom’s sentiments regarding the work of Monk have been reciprocated by his Leeds opposite number, who believes that the Barnsley head coach is doing ‘brilliantly’.
“He (Heckingbottom) is another up-and-coming manager and he has taken to that job extremely well,” said Monk.
“He has done brilliantly. Like all managers, you face situations which make it more difficult, so in this period, it will be about how they come through it.
“But they are a very good side. If they are allowed to play the way they want to play, they will hurt you.”