Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom has finally been able to appreciate his – and his team’s - amazing achievements last season.
Speaking exclusively to The Star, Heckingbottom, who signed a new one-year rolling contract with the club earlier this week, admitted: “To be honest it probably only sunk in how well we’d done when I was on the open top bus tour!
“It was very emotional. I was only doing my job and me and the players were just focused on the job in hand.
“But when I got on the bus tour around the town it started to sink it what we’d achieved.
“I’ve got lots of friends and family in the town – and I was getting lots of messages.
“It’s a unique situation in some ways because hundreds of fans have my mobile number, so I was just inundated with messages of support and thanks. That meant a lot to me.”
Heckingbottom guided the Reds to a memorable promotion back to the Championship and also the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy title with fine Wembley wins.
And as a reward Heckingbottom and his players deservedly celebrated their achievements with an open top bus tour of the town, as thousands of Barnsley supporters came out to join the celebrations.
“I’ll always remember that day for the rest of my career, it was really special,” added Heckingbottom.
“It didn’t put any extra pressure on my that so many people in the town were texting me, myself and the players put that pressure on ourselves.
“But we just tried to enjoy our football and play a brand that the fans enjoyed.
“I think we did that last season. But as well as being attacking I thought our defence was excellent.
“Our success was built on our defence and everyone bought in to that. We built a platform from which we could be successful.”
And Heckingbottom can’t wait for the challenge of the Championship next season, with the Reds set to play relegated Premier League sides Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Norwich City, as well as mouth-watering Yorkshire derbies with Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United and Leeds United.
“We’ve got to embrace the challenge, it’s a great one for us,” stressed the 38-year-old.
“There’s some great matches to look forward to. We’ve got to enjoy it and also scrap for every point because we know it’s going to be really tough.”
Meanwhile, the club’s players will return for pre-season fitness testing on Monday 27 July, with official pre-season training due to start at Oakwell on Friday of that week.