Football: Honesty the best policy for Reds buddy and boss

Barnsley v Brighton.....Reds hero keeper Luke Steels gets a well done from his manager David Flitcroft
Barnsley v Brighton.....Reds hero keeper Luke Steels gets a well done from his manager David Flitcroft

David Flitcroft made quite an impression, one way and another, during his first five months as Barnsley manager.

His success on the field in keeping Barnsley up, after taking over at the turn of the year when apparently doomed, was matched by an off-field personality and a handling of affairs in a manner which left many seasoned observers impressed.

His goalkeeper, Luke Steele, who has just signed a new deal at Oakwell, has outlined why he believes Flitcroft succeeded and what helped him get the best from his squad.

“He is someone who speaks from the heart and he’s very honest,” said Steele who has extended his five-year stay after signing a two-year contract last week.

“Of course, he was first-team coach beforehand and, as such, you are a little bit closer to the players than the manager. He had already shown his honesty and had respect from the players - almost as a mate, a friend, to the lads.

“Then, when he made the transition to be manager, he already had the respect of the players ... usually, the manager has to earn that respect. He already had it. He was like one of us.”

But Steele pointed out the potential pitfall of a coach changing into a different person when he becomes the manager. Not Flitcroft, he said.

“Instead of changing - and this is a big problem you can get with a manager when he steps up from coaching, he becomes completely different, like a schoolteacher almost - he hasn’t,” adds Steele. “He’s the person we knew before.

“The common touch remains, he hasn’t lost it, which was so important and is probably built into him naturally.

“He’s become the manager, and he’s the boss now, but he has kept the social side whereby he can talk to us and joke with us. But, at the same time, we know who’s boss and I think he has got the level, the mix, just right.

“Sure, he will make mistakes. He’s a young manager and I’m sure he’s made one or two already but he learns from things quickly, we can see that.

“Also, we can see and feel that it’s a happy place where you want to believe and sweat and cry for the team, for each other and for the manager.”

The 28-year-old says the evidence of the spirit and togetherness was clear for all to see as they made their bid for survival from January onwards.

“When you’re working for each other and really want to do well for the manager and the staff then it makes so much difference,” he says.

“People have remarked about everybody going to the bench to celebrate a goal but they did that because they wanted to share the feeling with him and the staff - trying to repay him for what he’d done for us.”

However, Steele admits that he might have been saying this as an ex-Barnsley player because the first contract offer brought a “straight ‘no’” (his description).

He didn’t fancy a one-year contract on reduced terms..

“If that was the best on offer, I thought I’d look elsewhere and spoke to other clubs but felt it would be a sideways move.” he said.

He said his family knew he really wanted to stay and the arrival of new chief executive Ben Mansford heralded a change of tack, the offer improved and he signed.

“I’m delighted to be staying and excited. There has been a buzz about the place since January and I feel that, for the first time while I’ve been here, we really can kick on,” he added.

“We are doing things right.

“The club is definitely on an upward spiral.”