BARNSLEY chief executive Dane Murphy is confident that out-of-contract captain Alex Mowatt and sought-after head coach Valerien Ismael will still be at Oakwell next season.
Ismael, who masterminded the Reds’ rise from fourth-bottom in October to fifth in the final Championship table, before play-off defeat to Swansea, has been linked with a move to various clubs including Crystal Palace, where he played, and West Bromwich Albion.
The Frenchman – who has been on a family holiday to Dubai – has two years left on his contract while there have been reports of a release clause which Murphy would not comment on.
Murphy told the Chronicle: “I haven’t seen or heard anything that would dissuade me from believing Valerien is going to be the head coach next season of Barnsley Football Club.
“His demeanour, engagement and his willingness to have Zoom calls and phone calls with players in our recruitment process has only become more fervent.
“In my own mind, I don’t see a scenario where he is somewhere else next season.
“But it is a tricky sport and things come out of nowhere sometimes.
“There will be a lot of interest because of the job he has done but I still think, as with Alex Mowatt, this is the best place for Valerien and I think he knows that.”
Skipper Mowatt is out of contract this summer with his deal officially ending at the end of the month.
The 26-year-old, from Doncaster, has played 162 games for the Reds since signing in 2017 and excelled last season with eight goals and seven assists.
Murphy said Mowatt will probably have offers from other clubs but expects him to stay at Oakwell.
Murphy told the Chronicle: “Alex is on holiday and we want to give him some time which is only fair after the season we’ve had. But when he gets back we will speak to him and his representative and try to find some common ground.
“We would like it to be sorted by the first week of pre-season.
“I am confident we can keep him and the club are too. Alex has shown, as our captain and leader, how well he can perform here. I honestly don’t know if there’s a better place for Alex to go within the EFL. I am confident he will sign and that, when he returns to the UK, we’ll get something done.
“Valerien has been very clear that he wants to keep Alex.”
The Reds are also hoping to lengthen and improve the contracts of several of their star players. Centre-backs Mads Andersen and Michal Helik as well as wing-backs Callum Styles and Callum Brittain could attract interest this summer, while top-scorer Cauley Woodrow has been the subject of approaches in the past.
Murphy said: “We’re in discussions with a few and the club has shown we have done an extremely good job with that.
“We only have one player this season who is out of contract from an extremely strong first team squad.
“We have ongoing discussions with a small group who have two or three years left but we feel like they could have a little bit more added value.
“I don’t want to go into detail on who they are but hopefully we will be able to announce some news in the next weeks or months.”
Barnsley loaned several players out in 2020/21 including Patrick Schmidt, Marcel Ritzmaier, Isaac Christie-Davies, Elliot Simoes, Luke Thomas, Matty Wolfe and Jack Aitchison.
Murphy said: “Valerien is the type of coach who wants to give everyone in the organisation who has put time and effort in, a chance.
“Pre-season will be very important to all players, even the starters from last season who will have to prove themselves again. Those who are on the fringes will have something to prove in the first weeks of pre-season then we’ll take it from there.”
Barnsley are due to return to training in on June 28 with the new season starting on August 7.