After guiding the Reds back into the Championship, a jubilant Paul Heckingbottom praised every single one of his players for the work ethic they have shown this season.
The Caretaker Head Coach saw his Barnsley side ease past Millwall 3-1 at Wembley Stadium with Ashley Fletcher, Adam Hammill and Lloyd Isgrove scoring on the day.
Heckingbottom expressed his delight with his side for returning to the top flight and admits it will take some time to sink in.
He said: “I cannot explain how proud I am of the lads and how pleased I am for them. They’ll never know how proud I am for all of them.
“I’ve just told them all now that they’re Championship players, and that’s what they are now.
“They’re there on merit, they’ve earned it and they’ve battled through and have achieved the ultimate goal. It’s been terrific and the season has got better and better.
“As soon as that final whistle went, it started to hit home to the lads what it all meant. We told them that the JPT was special and to enjoy that but this was always the main goal.”
Despite not being one for looking back on the season, Heckingbottom said he is keen to keep looking forward and helping the side grow.
“I’m not one for looking back and reflecting, I’ll be celebrating the next two days and then I’ll look ahead and think what’s next.
“You have to be like that but I can put it in perspective and say we’re really lucky to do what we have 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.
“If I dwell on that, I can’t help them go any further,” he added.
Since joining on loan from Manchester United, striker Ashley Fletcher has been a star of the Reds side and Heckingbottom outlined the qualities he has brought to the side.
“When Fletch first came in, he had a massive impact from the bench and now he’s playing like a man. His biggest quality, apart from his football attributes, is his willingness to go the extra yard, learn and take advice.
“If he hadn’t have been on loan with us, who knows what the pecking order was at Manchester United, but it could have been him making his debut instead of Marcus Rashford.
“They must be impressed with what he’s done with us and whatever level they put him at, they’ll have seen a progression.”
Following Barnsley’s success, the Caretaker Head Coach is keen to sit down with the club to discuss his future and hopes to resolve contract situations with the players as well.
“We have had players out of contract but I’ve asked them to be selfless and put the team first and I’ve done the same, it’s been my message to the club.
“I said we’ll start speaking after the last game of the season and now we can sit down and do that.
“Everybody knows what the club means to me and had I have not been on the bench in the dugout, I’d have been down here watching.”
Heckingbottom also reflected on how far the club have come in such a short space of time this season.
He feels that the hard work the side have put in to get back into the Championship showed on the day and that the changes in the side have been apparent as the season has progressed.
“Back in November when things were tough, the message was stay up,” he said. “We were playing well but not getting the results, so even if we played well, the opposition would get chances against us.
“It’s something we’ve worked on and as the season’s progressed, working hard without the ball and gradually we have gained some belief.
“As the season has progressed, we’ve been able to add to that.”