What a week it has been in the world of Barnsley Football Club!
A remarkable rout of Birmingham City live on Sky Sports – with the in-form Craig Davies hitting four goals in one half – and the subsequent feverish speculation over a possible Oakwell buy-out.
First there was an Italian consortium being mooted, then a Middle Eastern group, and now there are even rumours of an Irish consortium being led by former Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn and perhaps even featuring former Oakwell star Mick McCarthy!
Any more to come out of the woodwork? You can rest assured there will be.
You couldn’t make it up! Well, perhaps the likes of Sky Sports are doing!
For they had Hill ‘seeking assurances over his future’, and ‘having a meeting’ with current owner Patrick Cryne in the last few days.
At Thursday’s weekly press conference, Hill refuted those claims, yet it is clear that he is finding all this takeover talk an unwelcome and unwanted distraction. And rightly so.
He and his assistant David Flitcroft appear to have put together a squad this season that is not only very committed but also capable of producing an entertaining brand of enterprising, pass-and-move football. And all on what, in Championship terms, is a shoestring budget.
Hill rightly says that we must judge him and his team at the end of the season, but didn’t we all get a little excited at watching the super Reds batter the Birmingham Blues last Saturday teamtime?
And it should be pointed out that while the rumour mill is in overdrive regarding a potential buyout there has been no firm offer for the club; indeed, the Reds have not heard back from one of the groups after they made initial contact.
So any switch in ownership – if it happens at all – may be months down the line.
Cryne has made it clear that he would sell the club to the right person, or right people.
And, to my mind, Cryne has always appeared to have had the best interests of Barnsley FC at heart throughout his tenure – and thanks to his financial input the Reds have turned themselves into a debt-free club that could well be attractive to investors.
We just have to hope that if Cryne – who, let us not forget, is battling illness and has not actually attended a match at Oakwell in many months – does decide to cash in then he picks the right people to pass the Oakwell baton on to.
God forbid that the Reds end up in a Portsmouth situation, where a series of poor owners left the south coast club in administration and on the brink of going out of business.
Barnsley, of course, have felt the full agonising force of administration.
We don’t want that spectre to rear its ugly head again.
And while all this is going on in the background, ‘Hillcroft’ have to try and continue to weave their magic.
In my view, the Reds management pair did a very, very good job last season in keeping the Reds in the Championship, especially after losing the likes of Ricardo Vaz Te, Danny Drinkwater and Jacob Butterfield in January, the latter through injury.
And the way they have transformed the fortunes of such players as Stephen Dawson, Chris Dagnall and Scott Golbourne in the early part of this campaign – and got them playing so well for the team – is nothing short of outstanding.
So you can understand full well if Hill feels a tad frustrated by all the off-the-field speculation.
Incidentally, he will perhaps have to prepare his players a little differently for the next two matches, Ipswich and Peterborough.
The Tractor Boys, who pitch up at Oakwell on Saturday, are currently second-from-bottom of the Championship. Posh, the visitors on Tuesday, are rock-bottom.
Both are without a win this season; indeed Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough are currently pointless.
So, for two rare occasions, Barnsley are firm favourites to win. And having that favourite tag roud your neck brings a different kind of pressure, the pressure and need to perform, to shrug off the danger of taking things too lightly and go out there and do the business.
Nobody expected Barnsley to blitz Birmingham 5-0 at St Andrew’s. But having done so has raised expectation levels.
And you know what usually happens when the Reds are given the big build-up…….
Here’s hoping Hillcroft can buck the normal Barnsley trend of falling flat when they are handed high praise – and keep things motoring merrily along with back-to-back home wins and another six points in the bag.
YOU’RE NOT GUNNER BELIEVE THIS!
For the recent home clash with Blackpool, Barnsley FC cut adult admission prices to £12.50. It was part of their 12th anniversary celebrations and they were rewarded with round 3,000 extra supporters coming through the turnstiles.
It seems to me that clubs up and down the country should look to implement that sort of cut-price initiatives on a regular basis, to try and get fans flocking back to football.
The main reason a lot of supporters currently stay away is because of price. Families especially just cannot afford to pay the figures being bandied about by clubs in all tiers of the English game.
Thirty-six quid for a Barnsley adult fan to go and watch the super Reds at Leeds in just over a week’s time. Do me a favour Mr Bates!
And then came the story of Arsenal’s forthcoming clash with London neighbours Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium this weekend. It promises to be the priciest match ever in the Premier League.
The Gunners, who have just announced another healthy profit, have made the cheapest general admission ticket £62. SIXTY-TWO QUID! An absolute scandal. Arsenal could actually net £6m from that match alone.
I know there is a North-South divide but even that must surely test the purse-strings of most people south of Watford Gap!
Football clubs better beware. Keep this up and even the biggest diehards may have to admit defeat.
The genuine supporter is being priced out of the game.
PARDEW POCKETS EXTRAORDINARY DEAL
Before Alan Pardew took the managerial reins at Newcastle United, the Geordie faithul had seen eight bosses in eight years.
Now Pardew has been given an EIGHT year contract!
A lot can happen in eight weeks, never mind eight years. Especially in football.
It will be interesting to see if Pardew gets anywhere near seeing that deal out……
COME ON RORY AND CO!
And finally, the very best of luck to Team Europe in the Ryder Cup, which gets underway in Chicago tomorrow (Friday).
It promises to be yet another magnificent golfing occasion and the United States appear to be very confident of wresting the trophy away from the clutches of Jose Maria Olazabal’s men.
I’d like to think Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and co will make sure that doesn’t happen.
But just how many times will we have to cope with American voices booming out ‘You’re the man, Tiger’, or ‘Get in the hole’?
Still, whatever unfolds, it promises to be gripping sport of the highest order.