Barnsley legend Bobby Hassell’s testimonial match against Mansfield Town today will be a blend of fun and serious preparation, according to Reds boss Lee Johnson.
The 35-year-old fans’ favourite spent a decade at Oakwell before leaving in 2014, amassing almost 300 appearances as his committed defensive displays endeared him to the Barnsley faithful.
Following a low-key departure last year, Hassell now has the chance to say goodbye properly to the supporters this weekend, something Johnson was keen to facilitate.
“Bobby Hassell is a bit of a legend here,” he said. “He’s a lovely fella and we want to do everything we can to help him, and I’m sure the fans will turn out in their numbers.”
The Reds have had a stuttering start to their pre-season preparations as Johnson looks to assemble a squad capable of challenging for promotion to the Championship.
An own goal handed them a narrow 1-0 win over Stalybridge last Saturday, before they played out a goalless draw with Guiseley on Tuesday evening.
Hassell’s testimonial against his former club Mansfield will serve as another chance for Johnson to see his side in action and impress his philosophy on the players.
But the Barnsley boss knows that the game will serve a dual purpose, and he is keen to get the right balance between a fitting send-off and a worthwhile run-out.
“I know what he wants to achieve from the day and it sounds quite interesting,” he added. “But for us it’s an important game as well because it’s part of our preparations. It’s an important game but it’s his day and I think that’s the key.
“If we can get that blend right, and that’s what I’ve said to Bobby, then it will be a great day all round. We need to make sure we prepare and use at least 75 minutes of the game properly, and then we can let him muck around for 15 minutes.”
Meanwhile, want-away youngster Mason Holgate is still training with Manchester United ahead of a potential move to Old Trafford.
The 18-year-old is in the final year of his contract and has turned down a new deal to stay at Oakwell, with several Premier League clubs said to be interested.
Holgate made 22 appearances last term in his breakthrough season, and the highly-rated right-back is thought to be valued at £1 million.