SHEFFIELD United manager Paul Heckingbottom believes his hometown club Barnsley have a good chance of staying in the Championship, after thinking they were certain to go down earlier in the season.
The Reds are five points adrift with eight games left after losing 2-0 at Bramall Lane on Saturday.
Heckingbottom, from Royston, played for the Reds then led them to promotion as head coach in 2016 before leaving in 2018.
Asked after Saturday’s game if he was saddened by Barnsley’s fall from fifth last season into the relegation zone, he told the Chronicle: “Yeah, but it’s tough. There were high expectations this season but the start was poor and early on I couldn’t see away out for them.
“Poya (Asbaghi) has them playing with good spirit going into the last few games so they have a good chance.”
He added: “I have seen a lot of them all season and they are finding their form at the right time.
“A few weeks ago I would have said they were gone but when I came out of Oakwell on Tuesday (following a 2-0 win over Bristol City) I thought they had a right chance.
“I don’t think this result against us changes much, it is all there for them to fight for.
“They have a settled way of playing now and some real key players.
“They just need to keep believing.”
Heckingbottom is working with Conor Hourihane, Adam Davies and Oli McBurnie who all played for him at Barnsley.
Hourihane started on Saturday with McBurnie coming off the bench while goalkeeper Davies was an unused substitute.
“It’s funny how it pans out. You keep in touch with a lot of players.
“I brought in Davo when we needed a goalkeeper. He’s been excellent in training but he’s just behind Wes (Foderingham).
“Conor broke into the team while I’ve been here and he’s done well and Oli’s working hard to get back into the team.”