The Reds’ new year renaissance has been one of the endearing stories of the Football League season and after Wembley glory in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, they are now tantalisingly on the cusp of a return by securing one of the most remarkable progressions to a play-off final in recent years – after being in the relegation zone on Boxing Day.
Several players showcased their talents in Saturday’s emphatic 3-0 League One semi-final first-leg win over Walsall at Oakwell – ahead of tomorrow night’s second instalment – most notably top-scorer Sam Winnall, who scored twice.
The striker, the first Reds player to score more than 20 league goals in a season since club legend Ronnie Glavin in the early eighties, was the subject of a January bid from Leeds United, which the club labelled as derisory – with further interest from clubs expected this summer.
Others such as captain Conor Hourihane and defenders Alfie Mawson and Marc Roberts have also enjoyed stellar second halves of 2015-16, alongside the reinvigorated Adam Hammill – who the club are talking to over a new deal.
Heckingbottom is pragmatic enough to acknowledge that Barnsley’s resolve could be tested in the close season – whatever division they find themselves in next term.
But equally, he remains secure in the knowledge that the club will only consider selling on their terms, with the ideal scenario being that a team who have performed heroically since Christmas will stick together.
Caretaker head coach Heckingbottom, whose own future will be addressed at the end of their play-off commitments – hopefully after a Wembley appearance on Sunday week – said: “It is not a concern that we lose them. There will definitely be interest, 100 per cent.
“Whenever I am about, there is always people asking anyway, already.
“The fact is whenever you are successful as a team, player and a club, there are always going to be people watching and looking. That is just the way it is and how you want it.
“But we have had positive board meetings where the owner (Patrick Cryne) has made clear that he doesn’t need or want to sell them – and he wants to keep the team together and make it better and that is good news for me and all the other Barnsley fans as well.
“We have an owner as dedicated as he is to make the club and town better.
“Any sort of decision made is with the sole focus of making this club better and fans can rest easy we are under no pressure to sell players.
“If they did go, it would be for the right money so that could be re-invested somehow. We are in a pretty good position at the minute where most of our better players are all under contract.”
Barnsley, regardless of the outcome tomorrow night, are already making plans for next season having brought in Barnet captain Andy Yiadom on a two-year deal.
Other deals are also in the pipeline, according to Heckingbottom.
One player Reds fans are desperate to see at Oakwell next term is loan winger Lloyd Isgrove, with cries of ‘Sign him up’ audible on Saturday after he was substituted following an outstanding display against the Saddlers.
On the situation with Isgrove, contracted at Southampton until June 2017, Heckingbottom added: “It is entirely up to them.
“He knows what we think of him and everyone can see what he adds to us. But likewise, Southampton will be thinking the same and they will have a plan for Lloyd.
“Whether it continues with us or not, we will have to wait and see.”