Paul Heckingbottom spoke to the media today ahead of tomorrow's big game against Newcastle United under the lights at Oakwell.
The Head Coach kicked off the press conference by giving everyone an update on the injury front, with the health of Conor Hourihane an issue after the Skipper failed to make the squad on Saturday with a calf problem.
Hecky explained the situation, saying: “He had a scan yesterday morning, so we’re waiting for those results today. Ideally we’ll get them before training. In terms of being okay for tomorrow, the scans will tell us. He’s desperate to play but we have to consider the long term implications. If he’s got something there that’s going to get worse by playing then we won’t be doing it.
“That’s the point of having the scan. He wants to play, we want him to play but there’s obviously an issue there, but how severe it is we will have to wait and see. We missed him on Saturday. He’s a big player for us, with and without the ball, set-plays, so obviously we missed him, but would having him on the pitch against Fulham have changed the outcome? I’m not sure.”
The Gaffer is confident that he and his staff know where the team went wrong on Saturday in the 4-2 home defeat. He revealed his disappointment in the goals conceded in the immediate aftermath of the match and reiterated that again today.
“The goals were really poor on our part” he said. “But I was disappointed with how we played on the ball too. We knew we’d get opportunities on the counter when we pinched the ball because that’s how Fulham play. And that’s what we’re good at. But in the second-half especially, we continually gave up the ball. Time after time.
“It’s a big learning curve for these players, we know that, it’s a massive step up. For some, it’s a bigger step than it is for others. We can’t accept that though. Because it matters. And it’s up to us to put it right. Players have to learn really, really quickly. We might have got away with a few things on Saturday back last season but you’re not going to this season. But knowing where we went wrong is massive too. It’s down to us to make it right.”
Heckingbottom suggested that changes to the team were likely tomorrow, both forced and unforced, such are the demands of Championship football where it’s often three matches inside a week. And with such a small squad, it’s imperative to freshen things up when possible, as he explained.
“With the way we play, yes we’re going to possibly make changes. To keep things fresh, to keep that energy, so we do it for those reasons, but also when you’re conceding goals like we are doing and making errors then you have to put that right. And that comes on the training ground, with the videos, but also significant is leaving people out and working with them to improve.
“But there is scope to change things. Although we are down to 15, 16 senior players now it’s still an opportunity for others to come in and have a go.”
Tomorrow night’s visitors are flying in the Championship so far and have the division’s leading goal-scorer too. The Magpies will be supported by 5,500 fans at Oakwell and whilst Hecky acknowledges that Newcastle are a big club and will be a test for his young Reds side, he thinks it’s for the fans and media to get excited about a so-called bigger game.
“It’s all about the three points to me” he said. “I know it’s an old cliché but that’s how I approach it. It makes no difference really. You’re still playing for three points. Who they come against doesn’t matter to us. We know they’re a good side. They have recruited players who know the division, who’ve previously had success at the level.
“The manager sets his teams up well, he’s very well organised, they’ve got plenty of Premier League quality in the squad and that’s why they’re up there. But in terms of everything else, it being a big game or whatever, that’s irrelevant really. The atmosphere will be good but for me, I’ll be coaching my players, I’ll be trying to issue instructions, I’ll be focused on the match.”
Hecky finished by declaring his faith in his players. He believes a good performance tomorrow night against Newcastle will help give the group a boost and sending the Reds supporters home with smiles on their faces is something the Barnsley-born Gaffer would love to do.
He said: “It would go a long way to instilling more confidence in the players. That’s for the sure. If we can perform like we know we can, as we have done already, things will take care of themselves. We can beat anyone on our day.
“Because this is my town and I live here, I can’t get away from it. I know what’s going off. I know exactly how people are feeling at any given time. But I think the last few games might have helped in a strange way, because people are being a little more realistic now in realising the size of the challenge. But we’re up for it. We can’t wait for tomorrow.”
You can see Hecky’s full interview over on Barnsley Player HD.
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