Barnsley head coach Paul Heckingbottom flat-batted a barrage of questions on the Tommy Wright rumpus - one which claimed his friend’s job.
Heckingbottom appeared an embarrassed figure following allegations in the Daily Telegraph that his assistant had accepted a £5,000 payment to influence the Oakwell club to sign players.
Wright was sacked yesterday and a club statement stated: “A meeting between the club and Mr Wright was held.
“After considering Mr Wright’s response to allegations in the Daily Telegraph after breaching FA rules into player transfer, Mr Wright was dismissed.
“The club was unaware of such matters or involved in any wrongdoing.”
Wright, who is close friends with Heckingbottom, was filmed by undercover journalists allegedly taking a cash payment.
Wright was Heckingbottom’s right-hand man as the pair steered a sinking ship away from relegation to double success last season, winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy before getting promotion back to the Championship.
Heckingbottom told a press conference: “I can’t talk about it. You’ve all been briefed [by the media officer]. You know this is just about football and if not we can just finish [the conference].
“I’m under instruction just like everyone at the club that we have to do things properly.
“It’s out of my hands, people are dealing with it and it is a big issue with people following the right procedures and it ends when it ends.”
Ironically Barnsley travel to Leeds, who have also been implicated in the sting due to owner Massimo Cellino being filmed allegedly offering 20 per cent of the club to help ‘businessmen’ get around third-party rules.
The revelations add an extra narrative to what would have already been a tasty trip to Leeds.
There is a question mark of how the players will react. Wright had the trust of the team, with Alfie Mawson and Conor Hourihane both reportedly named during the investigation. Mawson moved to Swansea City for £5m last month, but Hourihane remains the club captain at Oakwell. There is no suggestion that either player has done anything wrong.
The Reds’ rocketing start to their return to the Championship has now under the shadow of allegations that have made worldwide news.
Heckingbottom wants the players to stick to their jobs on the pitch despite everything else. “My focus is on the players and the team, as it always is.
“Our job’s the pitch. We have to stay strong and focused. We’ve shown that we’re good at that.
The game culminates a great week of football.”