So little old Barnsley currently sit in the play-off positions in the Championship as we enter the March international break.
Any Wigan fan will tell you that Barnsley should be in League One this season and not fighting for the right to play amongst the game’s elite.
That is partly true in the sense that Barnsley only secured Championship survival last season due to a Wigan point’s deduction. What some Wigan fans fail to grasp is that the point’s deduction is just and if they hadn’t gone spending money they didn’t have on players such as Kiefer Moore from us then both clubs could and would have fared slightly different.
The fit and proper owners test is another debate and I certainly have a lot of sympathy for Wigan fans but as it turns out it helped my club out and that is all I truly care about.
I digress slightly, before I have even got started on the main point of the article and that is to discuss the remarkable progress that Barnsley have made and look at the possible how’s and why’s this had happened.
Digression could occur quite often during this article.
Outsiders and insiders alike look upon us as a young team that has been assembled on data. Both true to a very a large extend but obviously data only gets you far but you have to say it has done the job for the reds more often than not with the signings that have been made.
I think there is a lot more to it than just going on what the data says but it helps in the decision process and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a lot more clubs begin to copy the Barnsley philosophy to some extent, especially given possible financial constraints that some clubs may face due to the pandemic.
The Wigan point’s deduction wasn’t the only thing that saved the reds last season. No, we also had to go and win at promotion chasing Brentford on the final day of the season.
That task I believe would have been beyond the reds prior to the initial lockdown but not on this occasion even if we did have to rely on an injury time winner from the little seen Clarke Oduor.
Fans erupted as the reds had produced yet another great escape following the Flicker inspired 2013 one. But most were sceptical if there could be any true progress made in the Championship given that the club jumped at the chance to sell their better players for any half decent offer they received. And could the model of signing young hungry players from the lower leagues continue to find hidden gems like it had previously?
Barnsley don’t like to sign players over the age of 24 as they are usually not a future sellable asset if you buy them over that age. Under 24 and you can get them cheap and develop them in to better players and sell for a big profit. Over 24 and you are looking at a player who is already the finished article, will cost a lot of money and is likely to decrease in value by the time their contract is up. It certainly makes sense from a financial point of view but can it continue to be successful from a football point of view and can you keep the fans happy at times when the team is struggling as young players settle in?
This rule is not set in stone and the odd exception is made such as Adam Hammill a few seasons ago and Michael Sollbauer last season. The flexibility is really important. The reds were shipping goals for fun and the manager identified the need for an experienced centre back to come in to the team to tighten things up and bring on the younger defenders.
Sollbauer was brought in and not only did the defence improve but so did Mads Andersen beyond all recognition, so much so that he now sees himself selected ahead of Sollbauer, now that is something no Barnsley fan would ever have thought possible prior to the installation of Ismael as manager following the departure of Struber.
Now most fans liked Struber, after all he did keep us up, but I do believe we would have been in a relegation battle this season had he remained in charge.
And I will talk about both these managers as I delve further in to the story of Barnsley FC.