Difficult conditions could see Barnsley struggle

Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike) previews Paul Heckingbottom and Barnsley ahead of the 2017/18 Championship season.

Background

Paul Heckingbottom made a favourable impression in his first full season as a manager, initially guiding Barnsley to the cusp of the play-offs, then managing the inevitable descent in the wake of a demoralising January exodus. Now Marc Roberts, Josh Scowen and Marley Watkins have followed Sam Winnall, Conor Hourihane and James Bree in pursuit of bigger things. Early replacements have been imaginative rather than reassuring, while others are slow to arrive. The bank balance is healthy but the dependence on Heckingbottom’s managerial ability is huge.

Personality

There’s no disguising Heckingbottom’s attachment to his boyhood club - he’s Barnsley through and through. In managerial terms, though, a positive can-do attitude is by far his most distinguishing feature. He doesn’t do hard-luck stories and won’t tolerate any excuses from players, which is just as well considering all the events that have conspired against him over the past 12 months. He’s an excellent organiser who enjoys creating order out of chaos, always looking to surround himself with others who share the same work ethic.

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Verdict

The Tykes went five months without a chief executive following the shock resignation of Linton Brown in January - replacement Gauthier Ganaye, from Lens, didn’t get started until June - and Heckingbottom admitted recently that the Tykes are running behind schedule in their preparations. Too many inexperienced players are being asked to take up commanding roles and it could be a recipe for disaster. Heckingbottom is a capable manager but, under these conditions, he appears to be on a hiding to nothing. A steep learning curve awaits for all concerned.

Prediction: relegated

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