BARNSLEY FC: Uncertain future for club

Npower Championship 'Barnsley vs Peterborough Utd ''Barnsley's Keith Hill & David Flitcroft
Npower Championship 'Barnsley vs Peterborough Utd ''Barnsley's Keith Hill & David Flitcroft
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SPECULATION that Barnsley could be the subject of a club takeover is believed to have unsettled current management duo Keith Hill and David Flitcroft.

Manager Hill and assistant boss Flitcroft both declined to comment yesterday on growing suggestions that they would be unhappy to work with potential new owners who may have an agenda different to theirs.

Yet The Star understands that if new owners did buy the club, Hill and Flitcroft may seek pastures new.

That would signal a clamour from Reds’ fans who want Hill and Flitcroft to stay at Oakwell, having made big strides since taking over.

Hill and Flitcroft are well-respected in footballing circles for a job done on the lowest budget in the Championship.

They have worked tirelessly to recruit talent on the cheap and develop the club’s Academy players since taking over in June 2011. Yet I believe they have grown disillusioned that their work might be lost if owner Patrick Cryne sells the club to foreign investors. An Italian consortium is interested in buying the club, which has been owned by Cryne since 2004.

But prolonged ill health, a pending court case and a feeling that he can no longer take the club any further, are believed to be among the factors why Cryne wants to sell.

The club is debt-free, has excellent training and Academy facilities and has maintained its standing in the Championship for seven seasons.

Former Wednesday and Liverpool striker David Hodgson has been tasked by Cryne to find a new owner.

A football agent who has worked with Barnsley before, Hodgson set up a meeting between members of the Italian consortium and club directors Don Rowing and Barry Taylor last month. That meeting went well, but Rowing has stressed the club have yet to receive any “concrete offers”.

Hodgson has stressed that a potential sale would not threaten Hill and Flitcroft’s futures. But a friend of the duo says they have grave concerns about the club’s future if the new consortium take over.

Fellow Championship club Watford were taken over by the Italian Pozzo family (who are not associated with the Barnsley consortium) at the end of June this year and, within four days of buying the club Sean Dyche was sacked as their manager.

The decision infuriated some Watford players having seen Dyche – ironically a friend of Hill’s – lead them to their highest league position in four years in his debut season. Five days after Dyche was sacked the Pozzo family appointed Italian Gianfranco Zola as manager.

n Oakwell frustration: P57