Fleetwood’s McLaughlin tempts Tykes

Conor McLaughlin
Conor McLaughlin

He made the EFL’s League One team of the year, so it is no surprise Fleetwood’s international right-back Conor McLaughlin has reportedly caught the eye of Championship club Barnsley.

Reports in South Yorkshire suggest Tykes boss Paul Heckingbottom is eyeing the 25-year-old.

McLaughlin’s Highbury contract ends this summer, and with the Northern Ireland international yet to sign the new deal on offer he could leave for free after a five-year, 200-game stint at Fleetwood.

The defender is rumoured to have attracted interest from Barnsley’s Championship rivals Leeds, Reading and his former club Preston since appearing at Euro 2016.

McLaughlin played only one game in that tournament but has since established himself in Michael O’Neill’s starting line-up and is expected to jet out to Azerbaijan for Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualifier next month. He netted his first international goal against that country in Belfast last November.

McLaughlin made 49 Town appearances last season and was one of their top performers as Uwe Rosler’s side won a play-off place.

Top scorer David Ball and midfielder Jimmy Ryan are other out-of-contract players to have been offered fresh deals with Town, who are expected to release a retained list this week.

One player not expected back at Town next term is defender Ben Davies, who will be given a chance to prove himself at Preston during pre-season after his successful loan spell with Fleetwood.

The centre-back spent the second half of the season at Town, who conceded only 15 goals in the 26 games he started.

It is understood Fleetwood made enquiries about a permanent deal for the 21-year-old, who has a year left on his Deepdale contract and has been loaned out five times.

Fellow Town loan star Kyle Dempsey, now back at Huddersfield, remains the club’s top transfer target.

Highbury stages the Macron Cup final between Barnoldswick and City of Liverpool tonight (7.45pm).