BARNSLEY’s stunning 5-0 victory over Birmingham City should have been a result to savour, proof the club are making great strides in the Championship under management duo Keith Hill and David Flitcroft.
But less than 24 hours later that fine win at St Andrews was overshadowed by speculation of a club takeover.
Reds’ boss Hill and assistant manager Flitcroft were forced to fend off questions about their future at Oakwell after it emerged that an Italian consortium were interested in buying the club from Patrick Cryne.
The timing couldn’t have been worse, as Hill and Flitcroft deserved all the plaudits due to them.
Hill and Flitcroft have tried to get on with their jobs at the Championship club but I understand the duo have grown increasingly frustrated that their hard work in rebuilding the club could all be undone if new owners come.
And I sense there’s added frustration from the duo that contract negotiations with key first-team players like leading scorer Craig Davies, winger Matty Done and defender Jimmy McNulty have stalled despite apparent reassurances from the club that agreements would be honoured.
Hill and Flitcroft assured Championship safety last season yet had to sell top players to help balance the books.
Leading scorer Ricardo Vaz Te was a bargain buy for West Ham and his winning goal at the end of last season helped the Hammers secure promotion.
Star midfielder Jacob Butterfield was sold to Norwich at the start of this year’s campaign.
A large chunk of the money made from the sale of those players appears to have been used to offset a decrease in TV revenue, although the upshot is that the club are now debt-free.
Operating on the smallest budget in the Championship is tough, but Hill and Flitcroft have recruited a string of good players like former Tottenham Hotspur keeper Ben Alnwick and striker Mido, ex- Manchester City midfielder Kelvin Etuhu and Liverpool winger Toni Silva.
Ex-Chelsea midfielder Jacob Mellis has followed suit, as has former Coventry City utility player Martin Cranie.
Injuries have prevented Mido and Silva making a real impact, but Hill and Flitcroft will be hopeful those players will prosper.
But already this season Millwall came calling for defender Jimmy McNulty, while Crystal Palace made three offers for winger Matty Done. I understand both players were offered more money to move, but Hill and Flitcroft persuaded them to stay.
Like any management team, Hill and Flitcroft are keen to hold on to their best players and have stressed right from the start of the season that they don’t want to be forced to be doing business in the January transfer window.
A genuine worry that the right calibre of player might not be available and inflated prices are among reasons why Hill and Flitcroft want to get their business done before.
And continual speculation of a takeover isn’t helping their cause, with some of the club’s players unsettled about their futures.
The sale of Vaz Te, the loss of Manchester United loan player Danny Drinkwater to Leicester on a permanent contract – added to the long-term injury to Butterfield, seriously endangered the club’s ability to stay in the Championship last term.
With money tight, young players have been used this season, with the emerging defender John Stones and promising midfielder Paul Digby making great strides.
Stones won his first international cap for England U19s and is rumoured to have attracted interest from Everton and a number of Premier League clubs. But right now I reckon Hill and Flitcroft are just hoping the rug isn’t pulled from right under their feet by new owners who may stop them making Barnsley a success in the Championship.