With Championship football returning to Oakwell against Derby on Saturday, Head Coach Paul Heckingbottom couldn’t hide his excitement for the season ahead as he addressed the media this morning.
Hecky started by giving an injury update on last season’s top goal scorer Sam Winnall who sustained a hamstring injury on the opening day of the season against Ipswich Town. The results of an MRI scan show that the injury is not as bad as first feared and the Reds frontman should be in contention by the end of August.
Heckingbottom commented, “Hopefully we’ll have him back, ideally by the end for the month. He pulled up straight away and I feared for him, I was expecting some sort of tear. But the MRI scan showed no tear. There are obviously microfibers but it was grade one which is good. It was the fact that Sam’s had that injury in the past. He said in the past when he was younger, he would have played on with that, but he knows now that obviously he’s not going to put himself out for months and he knows exactly what it was."
Despite facing the prospect of being without Winnall for the Reds upcoming games in August, Heckingbottom insists that the players must be brought back at the right time and takes positives from the fact that Winnall’s absence opens up opportunities for other players to step up and stake a claim in the side.
“We obviously don’t want players out at any time, but it’s an opportunity for someone else to come in and do well. Marley came on and scored a goal. We have to do things right. If you’re not doing that you might push for one game and sacrifice them for another seven or eight. It’s just sensible decision making all the time.”
Heckingbottom’s attentions now turn to Saturday’s big game against Derby County, and the Reds Head Coach is looking forward Championship football returning to his hometown.
“I’m looking forward to it." Heckingbottom stated. "They always bring a lot of fans up here so I’m looking forward to a massive atmosphere. It’s our first Championship game at Oakwell for a long time which we’ve all been looking forward to, so yeah it’s going to feel good."
A huge turnout and an electric atmosphere is expected for the Oakwell opener on Saturday, and Heckingbottom believes that the Rams will provide a stern test to match the big occasion.
“That’s who we have got to compete against. We’re ready for it, we’re looking forward to it and that’s the test and challenge that’s in front of us now. The games won’t get any easier, regardless of whether it’s home or away, you see it in the Championship that there are always twists and turns in the results and it’s about performing and bringing your best on every given day."
“It’s going to be an exciting game, they’ll be coming here looking for three points but we’ll be at home for our second Championship game and we’ll be looking for the three points, so it should be interesting!“
Saturday’s opponents will be one of the favourites for promotion this season, but Hecky feels that taking on a team of this calibre so early in the season will provide a good character assessment for his team.
“We’ve been preparing for how hard this league is going to be, but if anything our recent performances show that we’re definitely ready. Just bring on the games now; there are going to be some massive games here this season and I can’t wait for the fans to see the team play, get up against the opposition and put on a show.”
Watch Paul Heckingbottom's full 15 minute press conference in full over on Barnsley Player HD.
Get your tickets for Saturday's big game against Derby County online by clicking here
. Alternatively telephone 01226 211 183 or buy tickets from the Reds Superstore / BFC Box Office.