Barnsley looking to keep hold of key striker Ashley Fletcher
Barnsley chairman Maurice Watkins wants to open up discussions with Manchester United to keep star loan striker Ashley Fletcher.
Man-of-the-moment Fletcher scored in the Reds’ memorable 3-1 League One Play-Off final victory over Millwall at Wembley on Sunday.
And the 20-year-old highly sought-after hitman also scored in the club’s fine 3-2 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final win against Oxford United.
“It would be fantastic to have Ashley with us in the Championship, but we will have to open up our discussions and see where we get to,” revealed Watkins, a former Old Trafford director.
“I do know the people at Manchester United from my previous associations there – and that could help, you never know!
“Ashley has done very well since he has been with us. He has played well but also enjoyed his football.
“He is deceptively fast and knows where the goal is, and his goal at Wembley was a great one when you looked at it closely.
The loan system is set to change next season and it is expected to be tougher to recruit Premier League players because of stricter guidelines.
And Watkins added: “The loan system is important for the clubs in the Championship and below, although there are changes next season.
“But still if Premier League clubs loan out their young talent they will want them to play and develop, and I believe Ashley has done that.
“These matches are so important, people often hop around trying to buy your good players if you don’t make it and it is vital to try and keep this side together if we can.”
Fletcher netted nine goals for the Reds last season and was pivotal in the club’s remarkable double honours success.
And the centre-forward, who started his career with Bolton Wanderers, revealed: “I heard the Barnsley chairman might be picking up the phone to United and that would be fine with me.
“I have to keep as my aim getting in and around the United squad and first team, and I would love to do that next season.
“But if it doesn’t work out hopefully there will be some options. The United Under-21 manager Warren Joyce has kept in touch with me the whole time.
“I think I could score goals in the Championship, and if I am not playing at United I would love to progress my game and play at least at that level.”
Meanwhile, successful manager Paul Heckingbottom is expected to sit down with the Oakwell hierarchy soon to discuss securing the Barnsley job on a permanent basis.
Heckingbottom, a Barnsley fan, took over the caretaker reigns when former boss Lee Johnson left for Bristol City in early February.
And since then the club haven’t looked back after an incredible run which has culminated in a season to savour.