Head coach Paul Heckingbottom is already looking forward following Barnsley’s promotion to the Sky Bet Championship.Since taking the reins from Lee Johnson, Heckingbottom has overseen a remarkable rise up the table and a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy triumph at Wembley. The fairytale season was completed on Sunday, when they returned to the national stadium to defeat Millwall 3-1 in the Sky Bet League 1 Play-Off Final.
Read more: Match report - Barnsley 3-1 Millwall
Now the Barnsley-born boss is ready to talk about his and his players’ future, after achieving their target of promotion.
Speaking after the match, Heckingbottom said: “We can talk now. We’ve had players out of contract and that uncertainty, but my message to the players was always ‘put that to the back of your mind, we’ve got bigger things that we’re chasing.’ Asking them to be a little bit selfless, put the team first and chase these goals — this promotion — and they did it.
“I always said we’ll start talking after the last game of the season. I couldn’t be telling the players to put it to one side and then I go and sign a contract, so I’ve done exactly the same. Now we can start sorting everyone’s future out.”
Ashley Fletcher gave Barnsley a dream start at Wembley, firing the Tykes in front within 90 seconds, before a wondrous strike from Adam Hammill doubled the lead. Millwall pulled a goal back, but Lloyd Isgrove’s header restored the two-goal advantage and secured a place in the Championship — a miraculous turnaround for the club that were bottom of the table in December.
“You cannot explain how proud I am of them, they’ll never know how proud and I’m so pleased for them,” Heckingbottom continued.
The @bfc_official fairytale.— The Football League (@football_league) May 29, 2016
Started from the bottom, now we're here... 🏆🎉🍾#PlayOffFinal#OnlyOnepic.twitter.com/2pgHCYn9Mf
“I’ve told every one of them that they are Championship players now. They’re there on merit, they’ve earned it, they’ve been through hard times, battled through and achieved the ultimate goal.
“I can put it into perspective a little bit and understand that we're really lucky to have done what we’ve done this season, but like I keep telling the players it’s through hard work, determination and a togetherness and willingness to go above and beyond.”