Barnsley: Watkins primed for Oakwell chief role

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Former Manchester United director Maurice Watkins is set to be unveiled as the new chairman of Barnsley Football Club.

The Star understands Watkins is a good friend of Reds’ owner Patrick Cryne and has been acting as an advisor to him in a proposed sale of the club.

Watkins’ appointment is expected to be confirmed today, although it is understood he won’t return to the boardroom until next week.

CBE Watkins was a Manchester United director for 28 years and oversaw a string of high-profile deals with the Premier League champions before stepping down from his position last June.

In December of last year Watkins was appointed the new chairman of British Swimming and is tasked with governing the sport during a new four-year cycle into the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio De Janeiro.

“Maurice Watkins is going to be appointed our new chairman; it’s the first time we’ve had a chairman since Gordon Shepherd retired at the end of the 2008 season,” revealed Reds director Don Rowing. “He’s coming to us with a wealth of experience.”

Watkins is also the current chairman of the rugby Super League, a director of Lancashire County Cricket Club and is a joint senior partner of Manchester-based law firm Brabners Chaffe Street.

“It’s great to be back in football at club level and the message is loud and clear - ‘Barnsley means business!’,” said Watkins. “Our task now is to make progress in the league, strengthen our position and get even more fans behind the club. Barnsley FC has to provide a good experience for the fans and look at the way it is portrayed.

“I can bring a wealth of football knowledge and experience having been involved in the game at the highest level with Manchester United for over 28 years.

“These are skills which are transferrable and I am used to dealing with players’ contracts, their agents and league officials.”

Cryne revealed he had listened to what the club’s fans were saying and that strong leadership was needed to take the club forward.

“Many people will know Maurice from Manchester United, but what they won’t know is that he operates in a range of different commercial spheres and sports interests,” said Cryne. “He is a sound strategic thinker and very clear on how a football club should be run.”

Barnsley midfielder Kelvin Etuhu has agreed to sign a new two-year contract with the Championship club.

Former Manchester City playmaker Etuhu signed for the Reds on a one-year deal in June 2012 having been released by Portsmouth, who were relegated to League Two last term.

That deal had an option of a further one-year contract, which the Reds invoked, before Reds boss David Flitcroft decided to offer the player a further year to keep him at the club until 2015.