BARNSLEY chief executive Khaled El-Ahmad believes they are better prepared for the upcoming summer transfer window than in previous years no matter which division they are in for the 2023/24 campaign.
The Reds host Bolton Wanderers in the second leg of their League One play-off semi-final tonight.
While promotion to the Championship will make it easier to hold onto key players and highly-rated head coach Michael Duff, interest is expected this summer either way. The difference in revenue between the divisions is thought to be roughly £8million. But the CEO believes the Reds have made significant progress on and off the pitch in the last year.
It is 12 months since a coup removed controversial co-chairmen Paul Conway and Chien Lee from the board.
El-Ahmad told the Chronicle: “We’re better prepared and aligned than before.
“The owners have been great this year.
“We have met and discussed what’s going to happen next year whatever league we’re in.
“We are well-prepared to continue to grow the club in the right direction.
“We’re not worried about people leaving. We have a plan for all those scenarios which we feel is positive and good.
“We are going to stick by it.
“You can’t control everything. But the intention is to continue building.”
Duff has been praised for his impact at Oakwell since being appointed last June, leading the Reds to fourth with 86 points after relegation the previous campaign.
El-Ahmad said: “Duff is under contract so you can assume he will be at Barnsley next season. You never know what happens in the summer but we don’t want him to leave.”
The likes of captain Mads Andersen and right wing-back Jordan Williams have one year left on their contracts and are expected to attract bids in the summer. Others such as midfielder Luca Connell have impressed this season.
Part of Barnsley’s strategy is to make money on player sales so there could be departures in the coming months if the club’s valuations are met.
But El-Ahmad is confident anyone who leaves will be replaced well.
“In the last two windows we have shown our recruitment works when we are aligned from top to bottom.
“Adam Phillips and Luca Connell were quite unknown, came to Barnsley and did well. I am fully confident in the board, coaching staff and our recruitment department.”
Several players are out of contract at Oakwell this summer, although only Luke Thomas and James Norwood of the current first team squad who are on permanent deals.
The Reds have an option to extend the contract of 32-year-old striker Norwood – who has netted 12 goals this season – for a further year, but are not thought to have made a decision on his future yet.
Midfielder Luke Thomas has mainly been a substitute since returning from a broken leg in February but has said he would like to stay at Oakwell and the Reds are thought to be keen to keep him, with preliminary negotiations ongoing.
Of the others who are out of contract, Clarke Oduor is likely to be released – having not played since August – but the future of Barnsley born-and-bred 20-year-olds Joe Ackroyd and Aiden Marsh is unclear.
El-Ahmad said: “There are some ongoing discussions but we want to see which division we are going to be in.
“All focus is on the next game but, parallel to that, myself and the recruitment team do have a strategy for both scenarios. We will obviously have different budgets depending on what league we are in.”
Some January loan signings have impressed, such as defender Bobby Thomas – who the Reds have an option to buy this summer if promoted – and goalkeeper Harry Isted who is out of contract at Championship play-off finalists Luton Town this summer.
The other loan players are strikers Slobodan Tedic and Max Watters – who have four goals each but have been in and out of the 11 – Ziyad Larkeche, the back-up left wing-back, and Josh Martin who has not featured for three months.
Meanwhile, loaned-out players such as Callum Styles and Aaron Leya Iseka are currently due to return to Oakwell for pre-season training later in the summer.
Styles spent the season on loan to Millwall, playing 22 games for the Championship club who dropped out of the play-offs on the final day.
There is a release clause in the contract the Hungarian international signed last summer, but it is unclear whether any club will pay it.
Belgian striker Iseka has scored three goals in his last two games for Turkish second tier club Tuzlaspor whose season ends on Sunday. The 25-year-old has two years remaining on his Reds contract.