Paul Heckingbottom, the Barnsley manager, confirmed his club are in takeover talks with a Chinese billionaire following their defeat by Sheffield United.
Chien Lee, who has previously attempted to acquire stakes in Championship rivals Brentford and Middlesbrough, is understood to have approached owner Patrick Cryne about a possible purchase of the South Yorkshire outfit earlier this month.
Speaking after Saturday’s game, Heckingbottom said: “There is some truth to it but it’s not my place to talk about it. I’m aware of what’s going on, I’m aware of what I need to be aware of. But my job is to focus on the team.”
Although Lee, whose International Investor Group controls 80 per cent of French side OGC Nice, is understood to favour a total buy-out, Cryne could retain a small shareholding if the deal goes though. Sources close to his consortium, which also includes Paul Conway, co-founder of Pacific Media Group, report they would be prepared to invest significant but not “huge finance” into Barnsley.
Heckingbottom, who referred questions on the negotiations “upstairs”, was more expansive when analysing the visitors’ performance at Bramall Lane. Billy Sharp scored the only goal of the game early in the first-half and, despite failing to stretch their lead, Heckingbottom described United as worthy winners.
“Whenever it was 1-0, we had a chance of pinching a point,” he said. “And that’s what it would have been, pinching a point. We weren’t good enough today, either on the ball or off it. That’s the long and the short of it. That was the story of that game.”
Heckingbottom was equally disappointed by the conduct of his captain, Angus MacDonald, who was dismissed together with United’s Leon Clarke following an off-the-ball incident.
“I am definitely disappointed with Angus,” he said. “We’ve had our captain sent-off and they were sendings-off. It’s an opportunity for someone else now. If he doesn’t get back in, that’s brilliant because it means someone else has come in and done better.”