The Reds’ head coach will be in the dug-out for his third fixture in charge of his hometown club against the Whites in tomorrow’s televised Oakwell meeting, having sampled a win and a loss in two encounters last season.
Raised in the pit village of Royston, where affinities were split between the Reds and Leeds when he was growing up, Heckingbottom admits that beating United, as opposed to Barnsley’s other Yorkshire adversaries, possesses an extra significance.
Heckingbottom, hopeful that top-scorer Tom Bradshaw will feature despite being involved in a car accident on Wednesday evening in which he suffered bruising to his back, said: “It (Leeds) was always my favourite one. When I was growing up, where I was from, you were a Barnsley fan or a Leeds fan when you played in the field behind my house.
“It was Leeds against Barnsley and the Leeds lads were always older than us and always used to kick smoke out of us.
“We hated Leeds and they hated us and that is how it was. You understand the support they have got and the size of the club and the tradition as it was always rammed down your throat with them bragging about it.
“It is a team everyone loves to hate, but a big club with a big tradition. It is a big derby for us.”
The Championship rivals will look to vanquish memories of midweek defeats to the top two of Cardiff City and Wolves respectively by claiming a cherished victory tomorrow – with Reds fans pinning their hopes on Leeds’s Oakwell curse striking again.
Well beaten 4-1 at leaders Wolves on Wednesday night, history also shows that Leeds have lost on five of their past six visits to Barnsley – with United head coach Thomas Christiansen entitled to be mindful of that record as he seeks to avoid a damaging eighth defeat in 10 Championship fixtures.
On the notion of Leeds being under a welter of pressure heading into the game, Heckingbottom added: “With the size of the club, expectation and the fans, they want success and to do well. They felt like they should have been in the play-offs last season and just fell short.
“That (pressure) is what happens.
“They have got some really good players who we must guard against and form goes out of the window in a derby. It is about who turns up on the day and we know they have got match-winners in their side. It is up to us to perform as a team, be strong and make it another difficult day for them.”
For the second game running, Leeds face a side who will have the benefit of an extra day’s rest, with Heckingbottom hoping that it will be a factor in the Reds’ favour.
“I hope so. The stats were ridiculous in terms of how it used to favour the team with the extra rest. You would think there would be something done about it, but there never is,” he added.
“But over the season, it evens itself out. Sometimes it falls your way and this is one of those times and, hopefully, we can take advantage.”