Reds fans should have every confidence that Barnsley Football Club are on the rise. Michael Roach returns with his latest contribution to the blog and provides his opinion relating to recent activity at Oakwell.
The Reds succumb to Burnley at Turf Moor, conceding a single goal this afternoon to keep them rooted to the bottom of the Championship, whilst the Clarets climb to the top.
So will an autopsy ensue on Mellon's brief tenure after just two games at the helm? With two games played away against highly rated opposition, did a haul of three points from our travels signal a positive return or not? Whether the Barnsley board opt to stick to their interim strategy or implement an alternative permanent plan is their prerogative, but most supporters might hope that they lower their stance on remaining tight lipped about the situation sooner rather than later.
And just like the recent postponement of the 'Reds on Tour' activities across the borough, there's noise across forums and social networks that it's probably right that any talk of off-the-field commercial initiatives become temporarily silent too until we know what will be done to halt this relentless tailspin we're in on the oblong green stuff!
It's a big challenge for all concerned. Looking at the bookies' top five candidates to be the next Barnsley FC boss, Micky Mellon, Danny Wilson, Neil Redfearn, Michael Appleton and Chris Wilder, how do you assess the personal and technical qualities that will be needed of each potential applicant, giving proper consideration the circumstances we find ourselves in?
For what it's worth, my view is that a candidate shouldn't be on the short-list for a mid-season managerial vacancy unless they possess a reasonable bank of games at the helm elsewhere. Using that yard-stick, I'm afraid that Redfearn and Appleton have to be eliminated straight away. Maybe if we were planning ahead, with ample time to build systems in pre-season and test these out in friendlies, I might be prepared to accept a different game plan.
Of the remaining three, whilst Chris Wilder boasts a managerial record 619 games in charge and a win ratio of nearly 45%, most of this experience has been gained at non-league level. Even our very own Micky Mellon impresses with 225 games and a win ration of nearly 52%. Which probably suggests I'm meandering up a rather biased garden path that leads to Danny Wilson's 948 games, with nearly 41% of them won as being the gold-standard. I'm not. But its a start.
There's just 27 games remaining and only 14 of those fixtures take place at Oakwell. Whilst nobody can guarantee anything, by my reckoning if 41% of those games could be won anywhere, it would give us a precious 33 points. Also, with somebody of the calibre of Danny Wilson who has drawn 27% of games over his career, if that could be replicated and maintained we would have a further 7 points in the bag too.
So here we sit. Bottom of the Championship on 14 points. Potentially with options (mathematically at least) to shake the dice again and take a gamble - with bit of science thrown in too. It's over to you Mr Mansford, you do the sums.
Thanks for reading. What are your thoughts on the tactics needed now? Whatever the outcome, do you believe as I do that Micky Mellon remains an important asset to the club and if the board decide to seek an external candidate would be a vital resource in any new regime? We would love to hear your comments below, or get in touch with us on Twitter or Facebook.
Let me start by saying it’s never nice to hear somebody has lost their job; especially a man who I feel represents many of the values this town is proud of. After the heroics of last season, most of the Oakwell faithful were behind the man who achieved what had seemed the impossible at the time of his appointment. So what went wrong?
The second half of last season was characterised by a side that would run their blood to water, would press for 90 minutes, and would bomb forward without fear. Everyone was given a chance, players were happy to make an impact from the bench, and most of all they were enjoying their football. I would argue that the mistakes were made mostly before we’d kicked a ball in preseason training. The likes of Marlon Harewood and Stephen Foster, who were seemingly pivotal in the dressing room and great with the fans, were released, whilst the likes of Jim McNulty and Tomasz Cywka, who the manager refused to play this season, were allowed to stay.
The signings of Jennings and Nyatanga, as well as the retention of O’Grady looked to be the makings of a squad that were going to push on to mid-table - especially when added to the players who had achieved the unthinkable. Since then, Jennings has gone out on loan, and Nyatanga has fallen off the face of the earth.
We can look at specific failings, such as Mellis being pushed out to the wing, Digby and Noble-Lazarus being promised 30-40 games only to disappear or be loaned out, or the general abandonment of everything that characterised our success last season; but the only feeling I have is that of genuine disappointment. I felt that Flitcroft had brought the good times back to Oakwell, was a breath of fresh air, and was the man to back for a five year period to try and build something great. But unfortunately for one reason or another, he couldn’t fulfil his promises.
So where do we go from here? Well firstly I’d urge everyone to have a look at my article on Short-Termism. The fans, the board and the players need to lay down the foundations for what will be Barnsley Football Club for the next five years, and stick to that plan. Let’s implement a style of football and have a genuine go at bringing through the best products of our academy; players with a genuine pride for this town and this team. If that takes us down, then what will be, will be. Of course there are no guarantees these youngsters could bring us back up, but whatever level we play at, we’ll find a team that will bust a gut for these fans, and want to play.
But what do we do in the short term? Firstly come the managerial appointment. Sky’s early favourites for the job don’t inspire me at all, and I must admit I can’t think of any obvious replacement other than perhaps Steve Evans from Rotherham - he has an eye for a player and is very demanding of his players. Whether he’d come to Oakwell is a different matter, but the Barnsley board need to learn from last season’s Butcher-O’Driscoll-fiasco, and appoint a manager ASAP.
All I ask then is that the new manager gives everyone a chance, and puts his own stamp on the squad. We will never be able to break the bank, however at this moment in time I believe there is much to be said for heavily streamlining the squad, and looking for the best bang we can get for our buck.
I’ll finish by wishing the best of luck for the future to David Flitcroft, and whoever else might leave Oakwell over the coming few moments. Thanks for some great memories and some of the most enjoyment I’ve ever had attending football matches. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and become your own man. You typified what I call ‘typical’ Barnsley values last season, and deserved success this season, but it wasn’t to be.
We’re all guilty of wanting things yesterday, it seems like a natural part of life, and when it comes to the Football Club, we can all be guilty of calling a player, only for him to go on a run of form, or criticise the manager, only for him to pull us out of the mire; but is short-termism killing our club?
Let’s be straight. Barnsley Football Club do not have the budget to challenge for promotion to the Premier League tomorrow, and, as I would argue, even if we did, we shouldn’t put all of our eggs in that one basket. As we all know, we in fact have a budget that wouldn’t even put us among the big hitters in League 1 - so what should our expectations of our supporters be exactly? Every season, at least in Don Rowing’s era, we were told that Barnsley is lucky to even be in the league, a view that many a level headed fan (or someone who considers themselves as such) supports. However, should we allow our budget to limit our expectations and make the supporters set out expecting failure?
The obvious answer to such a question is no, however every season since our promotion to the Championship, we have tried different formulae, different staff, and have thus far produced results with little variation year upon year. Cup runs and star players aside - the Championship period since 2006 has been much of the same year upon year for BFC.
As a marketing proposition, I can’t say I particularly envy Ben Mansford in the task of making the club more marketable and appealing to bigger crowds. That said, Mr Mansford certainly has a vision for the future of the football club, with the ‘Be Proud Be Barnsley’ logo rebrand campaign well underway as part of a long term plan to increase crowds by 8000 in order to end the vicious cycle where without supporters we have no money and no great team; but without no great team we have no supporters, and therefore no money.
It is clear that however much we complain about the quality (or lack of) of the manager and players, chopping and changing has had little or no effect on our results in the period since returning to the Championship. Mark Robins mustered the best league positions in the period, but did so under conditions that would have killed the club financially in the long term. The idea that chopping and changing has little effect in the longer term isn’t unique to BFC, and it’s something that’s explored in Anderson and Sally’s ‘The Numbers Game’, which looks deeper behind the stats in football. Stats have their value, sometimes they can go towards confirming what you already (thought you) knew, but sometimes they can be overused; with conclusions that aren’t necessarily true drawn from them.
Whatever your opinion on the use of stats however, it is clear that our short-termist strategy is bearing less and less fruit as the years go by, with average results and performances seeming to deteriorate year on year, but for the little runs that ensure our championship survival at the end of each campaign. It is almost unanimously agreed that Barnsley cannot continue with the same strategy if it is to remain in the Championship, with the financial and quality-of-player gap continuing to increase. It is for this reason that I urge the hierarchy at Oakwell (fans included) to look to the future and embrace a change in culture.
Barnsley FC needs to create a brand for itself - and by that I don’t mean a logo, a motto or whatever else you can think of in a marketing sense. What I am saying is that the football should speak for itself, we as fans, together with the board and management should buy into a philosophy - but what would it be?
Born and bred - in recent years our academy has seen somewhat a revival in producing the likes of Jacob Butterfield and John Stones who have since moved on, as well as the likes of Danny Rose, Jordan Clark, Paul Digby, and Reuben Noble-Lazarus who are yet to get a sustained run in the team. Many will labour at the point that when a player comes into poor form we should ‘throw these lads in’, but are we willing to change our behaviour in order to make this work? Will we actually give them a chance, or condemn them as being ‘rubbish’ and boo for making the most minor of mistakes? Do we accept that if we are to give these players the playing time they need, they could make errors that cost us games - and will we stick by them?
Playing style - the great and memorable teams play with a distinct and memorable style, be that tiki-taka or not. Plan B aside, are we prepared, as fans to agree upon a style of football to be played, and stick by it through thick and thin? Swansea fans are receiving great dividends for investing in a style of football over a long period of time - which the chairman has insisted stick even if the manager should change - should we demand as a set of fans a certain style of football, and TURN DOWN managers who won’t agree to play it?
Squad size - do we demand marquee signings year upon year at the expense of a larger squad to fall back on when injured? Do we use loanees to plug the gaps or give the youth a chance? Do we opt for mercenaries and change the team every year, or try and develop players in the hope that it will come good in the long term?
Budgeting - do we build a ground, or an expensive squad?
Time scale - where do we want to be and when? what sacrifices will we make to be there?
The questions I’ve just posed are naturally what you’d expect to be questions that the likes of Ben Mansford should answer to, but I believe we as fans have a responsibility to answer those questions for ourselves, and buy into something for the long term. Each of the alternatives that are given can reap huge rewards, but they can ultimately be extremely costly.
A combination of administration, which led to a lack of quality playing staff left Southampton in the mire, but they have since resurged with a strong English backbone and the results are clear for all to see. Swansea nearly dropped out of the football league, but a long term philosophy has brought them European football. I guess the overarching question is, what are we prepared to sacrifice in order to make it work at this football club?
Many will argue that we cannot at any price, lose our league status - but if it meant we had given a young squad, full of potential, some vital championship experience - what is to say we couldn’t come back stronger? That said, we may never return to this division, which, as the club who have played the most seasons in it, would be a real shame and a tough pill to swallow.
I guess I talk as a desperate fan who wants to see some ‘good times’ come back to Oakwell again. I had desperately hoped that last season’s exploits would translate into something even more special this season, but I think that we can all agree that it has been nothing short of lacklustre.
So I ask you, the Barnsley faithful - do we look to the long term, adopt a philosophy and give it at least 5 or 10 years, or do we continue trying to make ends meet and hope for a miracle? Comment below or tweet me @MichaelRoach55 - thanks for reading!
As is natural in such a results driven business, there comes a point in a manager’s season when you begin to wonder how long they might remain in their club’s dugout. And it’s safe to say that as far as many Barnsley fans are concerned, this point might well have arrived. 11 games in, and with just one win, the Reds are certainly not having the season that fans predicted at the beginning of the year, with many expecting David Flitcroft’s men to be sitting comfortably in mid table.
A combination of some unlucky results, injuries to some key players, as well as others not finding their feet this season, are where many fans will place the blame, whilst others will claim that the buck stops with the manager. Regardless of whether or not the manager is directly to blame, many fans will recognise that the next two games will be crucial in deciding who will manage the football club for the rest of the season, with 12 games marking the quarter mark of the season, and a point where many clubs evaluate their manager’s future.
The next two home games then, provide the perfect opportunity for the Reds to get their season back on track, with Saturday’s tie against Middlesbrough kicking proceedings off following a much-needed international break, followed by a crucial South Yorkshire derby against Sheffield Wednesday the following weekend.
Both teams sit in the bottom half of the table, with Wednesday joining Barnsley in the relegation zone, ahead by one point, having played a game more, and Middlesbrough lying in 16th, 7 points ahead of the Reds. Both games, as are any games in the Championship, are very winnable, but crucial if the Reds are finally to kickstart their season. By next weekend, Barnsley could well be out of the relegation zone, however the term ‘relegation six pointer’ springs to mind when thinking ahead to the Wednesday game, who’s boss Dave Jones is also under fire.
What perhaps is the most baffling aspect of this season, is that Barnsley have shown just what they are capable of in terms of performances under Flitcroft when achieving the great escape, yet have been incapable of replicating them, despite what is arguably a stronger squad on paper.
However the balance of the squad has come into question on a number of occasions, with calls to give Dale Jennings a chance on the left wing seemingly unanswered, whilst out-of-form Jacob Mellis is persisted with, despite being noticeably out of position. Performances of the whole team have improved over the last few games, despite not getting the results to match, which many fans have attributed to the arrival of Ronnie Glavin’s second coming, Paddy McCourt.
If the Reds are to get back to the form they produced to achieve ‘the great escape’, then they must also return to the winning formula that allowed them to go on such a great run. With a hard-working, no-nonsense attacking and pressing game, the Reds were capable of making some of the division’s top sides look extremely ordinary - yet it appears that Flitcroft has overcooked the formula and tried to continue his predecessor Keith Hill’s slow build up play, having had less weight on his shoulders at the start of the season. By sticking to what worked previously, demanding performances from players, and setting the stall out to win each match with nothing to lost, Barnsley produced some of their best performances since returning to the Championship. If that style was replicated over the season, I feel that Barnsley could yet be a surprise package this season. However, if Flitcroft persists with the system he has used so far this season, the Wednesday game may well be his last.
Don’t forget you can follow me @MichaelRoach55 on Twitter as well as @OnThePontyEnd. Please comment below with your thoughts on these next two games and what remains of this season. Thanks for reading!
It’s an age old expression that floods the media at the start of the season. The perennial strugglers, often faced with tough starts against the teams expected to be in the mix at the end of the season, are always told that ‘their season starts here’ come the arrival of a winnable fixture.
And Barnsley fans, full of optimism, might have expected a much stronger start to the season after last season’s thrilling climax. However defeats to Wigan, Blackpool and Blackburn, and a draw to Charlton in the League were not the start Barnsley had hoped for, with the Reds’ Capital One Cup campaign no sign for optimism either, having drawn to recently relegated Scunthorpe, and being thrashed 5-1 by Southampton.
With a defence leaking goals left, right, and centre, and a mis-firing strike force, early optimism was soon quashed, and many fans believed that this was the start of another long, hard season in the Championship.
But the saying ‘the season starts here’ might hold true more than ever after Saturday’s game, and recent dealings at Oakwell.
Dubbed by David Flitcroft as one of the best left-wing-backs in the Championship, Scott’s campaign was cut short by injury last season, after a flurry of impressive performances in a 3-5-2 formation which might have seen him win the Player of the Season award, minus his injury last year.
However, his return to the side this season has been met with mixed reviews, and needless to say the defender struggled to find the form which made him a fans’ favourite in the previous campaign.
Wolves’ bid two weeks prior to his eventual departure might have been the reason for a lack of form heading into the campaign, and therefore, with a year left on his contract, it seems that the Reds’ new hierarchy deemed the best option to be to sell the player to Wolves, earning a rumoured £700k in the process.
Scott’s departure was compared by many to the alleged offers received last season for Matt Done and Jim McNulty, mooted to be around 500k - with Matt Done leaving Oakwell last season on a free to join up with Keith Hill again at Rochdale, whilst former Captain McNulty has fallen well down the pecking order at Oakwell, despite signing a 1 year deal recently.
Scott is not without replacement however, with youngster Reuben Noble-Lazarus taking his place on Saturday and putting in an impressive performance, and Tom Kennedy also providing an option down the left side.
The Reds were however rejected in a move for Leeds full-back Aidan White, who might have been seen as a natural replacement for Golbourne, therefore David Flitcroft may opt to do some business in the loan market, or stick with Noble-Lazarus following his impressive display.
Needless to say, the squad appeared much more harmonious on Saturday, which may have been down to a mixture of Golbourne’s departure and Mellis’ exclusion, who has also struggled to find form this season amid rumours of an exit to newly-promoted Crystal Palace.
The midfield trio of Etuhu, Perkins and Dawson appeared to work well, with Dawson taking the Captain’s armband for the fixture. Mellis did gain an appearance from the bench, and appeared brighter in his brief stint in the game. Now that the transfer window has slammed shut, Mellis will be able to get his head down and find the form that attracted Premier League interest in the first place.
Late Transfer Dealings
Another departure that Flitcroft must have deemed an improvement to the squad was that of goalkeeper Ben Alnwick, who has just joined Charlton after having his contract terminated by the Reds. After losing his place to Luke Steele at the start of last season, Ben has at times struggled to make the bench, and has had limited outings in pre-season.
At one time it looked like Alnwick might have been the man to to replace Steele, should he have rejected his contract, but it appears that the Reds were keen to get the goalkeeper off the wage bill, having recently swooped for veteran Mike Pollitt from Wigan Athletic, who has replaced Steele in net for the past 2 games.
Despite doubts over his age and conceding 5 goals in his debut against Southampton, Pollitt impressed against Huddersfield, only conceding following a mistake from Jean Yves M’voto that allowed James Vaughan to pop-up in the box and slot past the Barnsley goalkeeper. Pollitt’s arrival has been seen as a relief by Luke Steele, and his control on crosses and experience in organising a defence certainly helped in defending against Huddersfield’s late onslaught.
Barnsley added further experience to the defence on deadline-day with the capture of Peter Ramage from Crystal Palace on a season-long-loan deal. The 29 year-old has plenty of experience in the Premiership and Championship with Newcastle and QPR, and will add plenty of steel to the defence in place of absentees Lewin Nyatanga and Martin Cranie.
The Season Starts Here
The Huddersfield game put right a lot of wrongs and provided a good platform for the team to build on this season. The defence looked solid, particularly in the latter stages when phased with an all-out attack from Huddersfield, and our strikers finally found their feet.
Pedersen and O’Grady combined well, and the Norwegian looked like a genuine striker, with composure on the ball and the confidence to shoot on sight of the goal.
With Cranie and Nyatanga expected to return from injury, and a few players set to finally find their feet, Barnsley fans can be much more optimistic looking ahead.
Though the first few results were a shock to the system, I don't think that they will set the tone for another season of doom and gloom. However, I do think they provided a slight reality check for those expecting us to romp the league.
Where will we finish? I’d predict around the 16th place mark, with a couple of outstanding results along the way and a platform to build on for the next season. People will claim that we've been waiting for a platform for too long and have languished in the bottom half for too long now. However, our new management team at both board and pitch level need time to adjust to the Championship.
Barnsley needs a culture change and this will take more than one season. We've already seen transfer dealings handled in a much more professional way and I expect this to continue under Ben Mansford. As Barnsley Football Club finally adapts to the business demands of the Championship, I expect that if the fans engage with the club and vice versa, it could become a powerhouse in the division as financial fair play bites, and the mighty begin to fall.
There can be little doubt about it, but in the first few games this season Barnsley FC have certainly lacked that killer instinct in front of goal. So is it any surprise that Flicker has now turned his attention to a Viking in the hope that he will maraud his way into the opposition's box, get the goals and pillage the points to bring some momentum to our season?
At just 23 years of age, there may be fans amongst us who will question whether Marcus Pedersen has the pedigree or experience to have a successful crack at the English Championship. Others may doubt that he can comfortably carry the weight of expectation that will rest on his shoulders when goals will be demanded, not patient development. Looking at a CV that includes the likes of HamKam, Strømsgodset, Vitesse and recent loans to Vålerenga and Odense, ask the man on the street how the Scandanavian leagues compare to the Football League and their response might tally to having equal substance to a mid-table League One, but in reality is that really the case?
In his defence, he has already picked up international caps for Norway at every level of his development, including two senior caps. He can count on tournament with Norway in the recent Under 21 European Championships, which included an appearance in the 3-1 elimination of England.
It's often the case that some supporters will jump to their conclusions before Pedersen steps over the white line to represent the Super Reds. However, I'm going to be the optimist and leave you with this thought for the day. It took Alan Shearer 118 games to pick up his first English cap, having scored 23 senior goals. Maybe he wasn't the finest striker to grace the game, but he would have been a god at Oakwell. Pederson has bagged 32 senior goals in just 91 games by comparison and has two full caps.
Can a Viking save our season? Please reply in the comments to share your views or provide feedback to us on any other area. Contact @OnThePontyEnd on Twitter or follow us on Facebook.