Feeling of deja vu for frustrated Reds boss at takeover

PAUL HECKINGBOTTOM has been here before.

Paul Heckingbottom.
Paul Heckingbottom.

It was back in January that the Barnsley head coach first expressed concerns at the state of limbo regarding the Reds and his time on the training ground being impacted upon to deal with other daily club business – and that same sense of weary unease is prevalent nine months on.

Once again, uncertainty regarding the behind-the-scenes situation at Oakwell prevails once again, with the Reds being the subject of protracted takeover talks which began over a month ago between the club and a consortium including Chinese businessman Chien Lee, American investor Paul Conway and “Moneyball” baseball executive Billy Beane.

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No successful conclusion has arrived so far, while reports at the end of last week suggested that the deal was on the brink of collapse, although Conway was in attendance at the Reds’ home game with Middlesbrough last weekend.

Like all Reds supporters, Heckingbottom remains in the dark as to whether the takeover will materialise or otherwise.

And not for the first time, the Reds chief is growing increasingly anxious that long and medium planning regarding transfers, contracts and the future direction of the club will be jeopardised if clarity does not arrive soon – and believes that the Reds are currently ‘standing still’ due to the takeover imbroglio.

On his sense of unease about the current situation, Heckingbottom, whose Reds side welcome Hull City in a Yorkshire derby at Oakwell on Saturday, said: “It is for two reasons. One, for people to stop asking me about it (takeover) and second, that we can get on with trying to get better.

“I keep getting asked questions now about things, but everything is in limbo and we cannot do this yet and we cannot do that yet.

“I just see it as we are standing still at the minute and I cannot stand that.”

With the club already possessing one of the smallest backroom set-ups in the Championship, the need for structured and joined-up planning from the earliest stage possible, especially in terms of recruitment, is all too evident if the Reds are to continue to punch above their weight at this level.

On a wider perspective, Heckingbottom admits that present uncertainty behind-the-scenes regarding the takeover situation is also stretching departments, which has already curtailed his time on the training ground on occasions recently, much to his dissatisfaction.

He said: “I want to try and get more away from being dragged away and the administration stuff I should never been doing anyway. I have to do stuff like that and get dragged away.

“I want to watch Championship games and things that are going to help our players for their performance rather than be looking for the next batch of players.

“It is needs must and you have to do it, but it just dilutes your work and spreads you too thin to be really focused on what your role should be.

“There are lots of clubs in our league who have umpteen staff and they may not necessarily be a club who say that they are a developing club who want to work with players and make players better.

“They may be a club who can just go and buy players.

“It is the backwards way around here, we have got the smallest staff and must work the hardest with the players.

“Great, let’s do it. The club has then got to provide even more support for that to happen.

“But if anything is taking me and the coaching staff away from the grass, then something is wrong. That is one area we can improve, definitely.

“It is just uncertain times. Everyone might have ideas about how they want to do things and everyone may agree on what we want to do.

“But at the minute, we cannot do it, so it is case of everyone involved in the best interests of the club deciding on the best action to take going forward – and making that as quick as possible.”

With the clock ticking regarding the opening of the January transfer window, which is under two-and-a-half months away, Heckingbottom admits that a lack of current clarity regarding transfer funds will force him to adopt a pragmatic and realistic approach to any new year business, as it stands.

Specifically on planning for the winter window, Heckingbottom, who was pretty much left to orchestrate recruitment in the last January window following the sudden departure of former chief executive Linton Brown, said: “If you can really focus on what you have got and are aiming for, then you can save a hell of a lot of time.

“At the minute, I would not say it is pointless. We (staff) are spread too thin because we do not know what our targets are going to be – whether it is free transfers, loans or do you have money to spend.

“I am trying to keep it as simple as possible and look at absolute priorities at the minute.

“If anything changes, it will be a bonus.”