Barnsley boss Lee Johnson is bitterly disappointed about the departure of loan star Ben Pearson.
The 20-year-old’s second spell at Oakwell came to an end after Saturday’s vital victory over Millwall, and he has returned to Manchester United amid reported interest from Championship clubs.
And although the Reds are keen to keep hold of the midfield maestro, it is as yet unclear where he will spend the second half of the season.
“I love Ben to bits... I think he’s a fantastic talent,” Johnson said.
“All I can do is thank him for the effort he’s put in.
“One day hopefully when he’s writing his book after a great career he’ll mention us all.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our part in trying to develop him not only technically as a player but also mentally. He’s maturing all the time.
“If you look at the last two performances they’ve been really mature and stronger physically.
“If you’d have dropped him into a game like that a year ago he might have struggled but now he’s come through it.
“Technically he’s fantastic, his range of passing has improved and he’s a great kid.”
Pearson has played his part in the team’s recent upturn in form alongside skipper Conor Hourihane in central midfield.
Their partnership has been a key component in the Reds recording three wins from their last four to lift themselves out of the relegation zone.
Hourihane added: “Ben’s been really good, he’s got a lot of energy in the middle of the park.
“He’s a great lad and if he doesn’t come back he’ll be one that we’ll miss.
“I’m not sure what the situation is, I know the club will want to extend his loan but hopefully he stays because he’s an important player for us.
“He’s a good player and he’s got a good career ahead of him.”
With Pearson’s departure the Reds are looking light in midfield. Academy graduate Paul Digby has joined Championship side Ipswich on loan with a view to a permanent deal, whilst Josh Scowen is not expected to return from injury for another three weeks.
That leaves Hourihane as the only recognised senior central player, and Johnson will need to act quickly in the transfer window if he is to bring anybody in before Saturday’s crucial Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash with Fleetwood.