BARNSLEY are hoping to bring in a new centre-back by the time they next play on January 13, with US international Donovan Pines a leading candidate.

The 25-year-old spent time at Oakwell this week, including watching the 1-1 draw with Wigan Athetic on Monday – the first day of the transfer window – next to acting director of football Bobby Hassell.

Pines, who is six foot five, flew back to America on Wednesday with negotiations ongoing and a conclusion either way likely in the next few days.

Barnsley are also exploring other options for centre-back which is their main priority position in this window.

They are in the middle of 12-day gameless spell from Monday’s match until they welcome Bristol Rovers a week tomorrow, before which they are hoping to have made their first signing of 2024.

Head coach Neill Collins told the Chronicle: “Ideally we get business done early.

“It’s maybe not the worst thing that we go from the Wigan game to the 13th with no game.

“It could be a good time to get things sorted. But we’re preparing for all eventualities.

“There are lot of people involved – other clubs and agents.

"Things will change.”

Meanwhile, the Reds are hoping to keep all of their first team regulars this window.

Barnsley chairman Neerav Parekh said last month that it was ‘extremely unlikely’ that they would sell any first team regulars.

Top-scorer Devante Cole and captain Jordan Williams are both out of contract in the summer and are thought to be of interest to other clubs.

Callum Styles has a release clause in his contract, thought to be at least £2million. The Hungary international – who has played 149 Reds games – is hoping to be selected for the Euros this summer but has been in and out of the Barnsley 11 recently.

At the end of last summer’s transfer window, players such as Liam Kitching – who was on the brink of a multi-million move – saw a significant drop in performance levels amid speculation of a move away.

Collins told the Chronicle: “I am certainly hoping that doesn’t happen this time. It’s better because we’re in the middle of the season.

“Pre-season is a long time to think about what might happen.

“Everyone is committed to getting points now.

“We have good players and we expect interest. But part of it is handling that interest and I am sure we can do that.

“The big part is keeping the core of what we’ve got.”

Barnsley are hoping to keep hold of loan players like goalkeeper Liam Roberts, from Middlesbrough, and Luton Town forward John McAtee.

Both are on season-long loans but Boro are understood to be able to recall Roberts automatically in January if they choose to.

Collins is not expecting his former Wolves centre-back partner and ex-Red Rob Edwards, now the Luton manager, to recall McAtee during the window.

He has nine goals for this campaign and has been a star player recently.

“If we don’t keep Macca, me and Rob won’t be friends any more,” Collins joked.

He added: “Macca loves it here, he knows he is in the best place possible.

“We love having him here and we are confident we will keep him all season.

“It’s really important we keep our loan players.”

Barnsley are likely to loan out or sell fringe players who are not playing.

Centre-back Conor McCarthy has not been in a league squad for almost 16 months, after a knee injury ruled him out for a year.

Young centre-back Jack Shepherd has also been out of recent squads.

Collins said: “I am certainly not expecting big changes.

“Our squad and team are settled.

“We will give peripheral figures a chance to go out and play.”

Under 21s players could be loaned out to non-league clubs but that does not have to be done in January as their deadline is later.

Aaron Leya Iseka’s loan to Israeli club Hapoel Hadera officially ends this month, although the Belgian striker has not played for them since the terror attacks on October 7 temporarily shut down the league.

Meanwhile, potential signing Pines spent all of his professional career at DC United, other than a loan in 2019 to their feeder club Loudon United in the USL Championship where he played against Collins’ Tampa Bay Rowdies. He played 87 games in the MLS, scoring six goals, including 22 appearances last year.

His last game was on October 1.

He has two caps for the US national team, both at the 2021 Gold Cup which they won, and was a team-mate of ex-Red Daryl Dike.

He was accompanied at Oakwell by his father Darryll Pines who is an aerospace engineer and president of the University of Maryland.