Barnsley: The hard work starts now for Heckingbottom and company

Paul Heckingbottom
Paul Heckingbottom
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Barnsley return to the Championship on August 6 full of hope and ambition.

But how well prepared are the Reds for the challenge of competing in one of the toughest divisions in the world?

This year Paul Heckingbottom’s young side will face the might of Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Norwich City, all relegated from the Premier League.

And there’s also a string of tasty Yorkshire derbies ahead of them against Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United and Leeds United to whet the appetite of the club’s loyal supporters.

Quite simply the Reds are going to have their work cut out. Survival and stability will be key for the South Yorkshire club as they look to make the difficult adjustment to life in the English second tier.

It took the club two seasons to fight there way back into the Championship following their disappointing relegation in 2013-24.

And just staying up this season is going to be tough for Heckingbottom and his charges as they try and build a base for the future.

The good news for the Reds boss – at the time of going to print at least – is that the club have managed to retain the players who were so influential in their success last term.

And club owner Patrick Cryne is understood to have given manager Heckingbottom assurances that the club’s top players won’t be sold.

That strong message will no doubt help Heckingbottom build a settled side, with new recruits being added when and where necessary.

The Reds have already recruited five new players since the end of last season, one which ended in memorable fashion,

Promotion back to the Championship after a fantastic run in the League One play-offs, with victory over Millwall in the final.

And just prior to that success another fine Wembley win over Oxford United to lift the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Three strikers have joined the ranks. Stefan Payne has joined from Dover Athletic on a two-year deal with the option of a third, while Kayden Jackson signed five days later from Wrexham, also on a two-year contract.

Defender and former Barnet captain Andy Yiadom was snapped up on a free transfer on a two-year deal, before midfielder George Moncur and Elliott – who both herald from the West Ham Academy system – having bought into the Barnsley blueprint on three and two-year contracts respectively.

All five players are young and at stages in their career where now have the chance to prove themselves at a higher level.

Star winger Adam Hammill quickly dispelled any rumours of a move away by penning a new two-year deal.

And defender Aidy White, who had also initially joined on a short-term deal, signed a one-year contract to stay at Oakwell.

And so there’s continuity within the ranks and stability from which to build.

Heckingbottom would like four more new signings in an ideal world, but time will tell whether Cryne will dig deep to provide the funds needs to strengthen the squad.

The manager, of course, has been promoted from caretaker to a permanent status after his heroics last season. A move widely expected, deserved accepted.

Owner Cryne believes the Championship is the club’s natural place in the English Football League pecking order.

The Reds are approaching their 77th season in the second tier, more than any other club.

But as Heckingbottom knows only too well, there’s plenty of hard work and hurdles ahead before the club can boast they are an established Championship club.