The 25-year-old midfielder says the Reds’ first team squad rejected the first offer of a pay reduction while he insists that, should the club be relegated to League One, he would not be put off signing a longer contract. Mowatt, who has played 101 games in three and half years at Oakwell, had been one of the players negotiating with chief executive Dane Murphy over a possible paycut or pay deferral.
He told the Chronicle: “Nothing has come of it. We spoke to Dane, he gave us some offers. We spoke about it as a group and the lads all spoke about their own situations. Then we went back to Dane to ask him to come back with something else because we didn’t want to take that offer. Nothing has come of it since. Maybe the club is in a good enough position. Now the games are coming back, we haven’t been thinking about it or speaking about it.”
Murphy said: “Gerhard (Struber, head coach) accepted a wage deferral that helped us significantly and we have had some executives who have deferred or not taken payment which has helped us. The ongoing conversation with the players has been very honest, open and professional so I don’t lay any blame at their feet at all. We had back and forth about something that couldn’t be done. But I commend our leadership group in the squad in being forthright and honest.
“It’s unfortunate that we haven’t come to an agreement yet because it would have helped but I certainly won’t hold their feet to the fire and hold them accountable for any issues that are going on right now. They didn’t know this was going to happen. I can’t guarantee a deal will happen but I wouldn’t be surprised if, once the games get going and the players see how important the club is to the community and themselves, that maybe we can go back to the drawing board.”
Mowatt’s contract was due to expire at the end of this month but the club triggered their option to extend it by another year. The Reds would like to negotiate a new deal to keep Mowatt for longer. He told the Chronicle: “We were in talks about it before this (coronavirus outbreak) happened but now the main thing is getting these games out of the way then hopefully we will talk again and get something sorted. It’s not dependent on staying up but I do want to be playing in the Championship so it would be better for me if we did stay up.”
The remaining nine games will take place behind-closed-doors, which Mowatt believes may help some of his young team-mates as they attempt to play the ball out from the back as is Struber’s style. “It will be strange without fans in the ground but everyone will have to adapt to it really quickly. You don’t play games without fans, even in the under 23s. There will be less pressure, you won’t get fans on your back. That might do a few players good.
“We have been playing out from the back in training and looked good doing it. When the fans don’t want that style of play sometimes, if it’s not going well, people change the way they play and go longer. It might be easier to play that way when the fans aren’t on our backs.”
The Reds have been back in training for three weeks, with full contract training for roughly half of that spell, ahead of the season which is due to begin on June 20. Mowatt said: “It’s been good. We have had quite a few tough sessions. It has been good to be back around the boys. I don’t think any team will be completely ready by June 20. You get fit by playing matches. But hopefully we can get that match sharpness back straight away. It can make a massive difference if one team is just a little bit more prepared than the other. Hopefully we can start well and get on a good run.
"The main thing is to hit the ground running. We have to start picking up three points. You have seen we can go on good runs and get momentum. There are a lot of games in the Championship, Saturday and Tuesday, so the gaffer hasn’t had much time on the training pitch since he got to the club. We have had about three weeks now so hopefully on Saturday June 20, we will be flying.”
Mowatt and his team-mates have been calling supporters as part of the club’s drive to sell season tickets. He said: “Everyone has been having a little chat with the fans. It has been nice. They seem really surprised when they answer the phone to a withheld number then it’s me. They probably think it’s a prank call.”