Barnsley chief executive Gautheir Ganaye issued a rallying cry to Reds fans after Paul Heckingbottom left for Leeds yesterday, insisting: ‘We’re not a one-man club’.
Heckingbottom was unveiled at Elland Road just four days after signing an improved contract at Oakwell, as Leeds activated the release clause - thought to be £500,000 - in his new deal.
Heckingbottom signed a deal until the summer of 2019 at Elland Road and his first game in charge will be against Sheffield United on Saturday, after replacing Thomas Christiansen at the helm.
Barnsley U23s coach Paul Harsley will take charge for this weekend’s home clash with Sheffield Wednesday, and Ganaye said: “Paul Harsley knows the club through and through.
“He has a sound knowledge of theclub as a whole and the team, which makes him the ideal person to lead us towards what is an important game for the town, the Club and the fans. Let’s get behind them!”
Heckingbottom has taken assistant coach Jamie Clapham to Elland Road with him, while head of science Nathan Wilder and first team performance analyst Alex Bailey also departed Oakwell yesterday.
Heckingbottom showed his loyalty to the Reds by previously rejecting interest from Championship outfits Nottingham Forest, twice, and Sunderland.
Each time he laughed off the rumours and insisted he was happy at the helm at Oakwell.
However, the Leeds job proved too big an opportunity to turn down for the promising coach.
“Yes, it was unexpected,” Ganaye added.
“Yes, it has come during an already complicated period. Yes, it will make things more difficult short term, but our club is full of resources and it is certainly not dependent on one man alone.
“I’m asking everyone from the players, employees and our loyal fans to come together as we have an important game on Saturday.”
Barnsley-born Heckingbottom previously talked about “spreading himself too thin” at times at Barnsley in terms of trying to get signings through the door, which took time away from coaching the squad.
And the infrastructure at Leeds would have been a huge lure for him.
The Reds’ new owners were keen to have Heckingbottom spearhead their survival challenge stating the “unique story” of having a born and bred Barnsley boy leading the club was one of the reasons they took over.
Yesterday marked Heckingbottom’s two-year anniversary in charge after taking over the reigns from Lee Johnson on a temporary basis before signing a permanent deal.
Johnson left for former club Bristol City with the Reds languishing in the League One relegation zone.
But Heckingbottom steered a sinking ship to promotion via the play-offs in that same 2015/16 campaign as well as winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Wembley.
Last term he secured a respectable mid-table, 14th, finish for the Reds even after losing the core of Conor Hourihane, Sam Winnall and James Bree in the January transfer window.
Things have not gone as smoothly this time around with an influx of new players both in the summer and last month.
And the Reds are currently in a rut with just one win in their last 16 and are just one point clear of the relegation zone.
A club statement used the words “disappointed” and “shocked” regarding the untimely departure.
Under-23s coach Paul Harsley will be in interim charge until a new head coach is appointed, with his first task a huge South Yorkshire clash against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.
Former Leeds boss Garry Monk is the early bookies’ favourite to land the role, but a French appointment is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Whoever it is will have to hit the ground running to ensure the club’s Championship status.