Heckingbottom's future on back-burner as Barnsley boss chases another Wembley trip

Paul Heckingbottom has agreed to become the permanent Barnsley boss
Paul Heckingbottom has agreed to become the permanent Barnsley boss
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Barnsley caretaker boss Paul Heckingbottom has no interest in resolving his own future while his side targets a return trip to Wembley in the Sky Bet League One play-off final.

The Reds will defend a 3-0 lead against Walsall in Thursday night's semi-final return leg at the Bescot Stadium and stand one game away from a second Wembley appearance in two months after lifting the Johnstone's Paint Trophy in April.

Fans and players celebrate Sam Winnall's second goal against Walsall on Saturday

Fans and players celebrate Sam Winnall's second goal against Walsall on Saturday

But Heckingbottom, installed on a temporary basis following Lee Johnson's departure to Bristol City in February, is not expecting any talks with the Oakwell hierarchy until the campaign is over.

"No I very much doubt it," he said. "Just get the games out of the way. That's what I'm focusing on and see what happens.

"From day one I was doing the job as if I was doing the job anyway. Nothing's going to change.

"I'm not going to change what I'm doing, so it really does not make a blind bit of difference to me at all."

Barnsley, bottom of the table at the end of November and still in the relegation zone on Boxing Day, have completed an amazing turnaround but Heckingbottom dismissed the suggestion the club was not ready for promotion.

"You can't turn it down, simple as that," he said. "You cannot turn it down.

"All this 'a year too early' business is nonsense, it really is a load of rubbish.

"Don't get me wrong, if Barnsley did go up we'd be fighting tooth and nail to stay up, so you can't look a gift horse in the mouth."

Jason Demetriou's own goal and Sam Winnall's second-half double in Saturday's first leg put Barnsley in control and Heckingbottom is expecting a feisty reaction from Jon Whitney's Walsall.

"They're a wounded animal and they're going to come at us," Heckingbottom added. "Whether it's from the first minute we don't know.

"But they're going to have a plan, at some point, to throw everything at us.

"We know that. We have to be ready for it and we have to cope with it."

Walsall missed out on automatic promotion by a single point on the final day and Whitney, also in a temporary role after stepping in for the sacked Sean O'Driscoll in March, described the first leg defeat as a "smack in the teeth".

"We are playing for our livelihoods - we are playing for my livelihood," he said.

"I want honesty from my players and I want to see if they believe in me.

"This is it now, a one-game season. Let's stand up and be counted.

"We've done it in the past. We've been unplayable at times this season. Now we need to go out and get the goals that will get us back into it."