With Barnsley once again featuring at the wrong end of the Championship table the supposedly imminent takeover of the club cannot come quick enough for fans and players alike. A point against local rivals Sheffield Wednesday is to be applauded but just one win in the last eight games shows that the uncertainty around the club needs to end.

Although all fans have been touched by the way Patrick Cryne has battled his illness and kept them informed of developments concerning the future of the club, there are some who have been vocal about the time it has taken for the takeover to complete and frustrations are beginning to show.

Imminent Takeover?

If – as had been hoped – the consortium headed by Chinese billionaire Chien Lee manages to formally take over in the next couple of months then it would give Paul Heckingbottom a chance to invest in some new players in the January transfer window and potentially push for promotion or a playoff spot.

The club are third favourites for the drop at around 6/4 and that’s an adequate reflection of the season so far. Sunderland are expected to recover after a disastrous start so it’s surely the time for quick action.

But these kinds of business deals can drag on and if it doesn’t go through in time then that would be a massive blow for the club – leaving Barnsley in a perilous position going into the New Year.

The Season So Far

It has been a tough few months for the club and with only a handful of victories Barnsley are already looking nervously towards the bottom of the division. It could be argued that the club’s position belies the way the side has played and performed so far but – as the saying goes – the table doesn’t lie and more three point hauls are definitely needed quickly.

Don’t Wait and See

One thing that manager Paul Heckingbottom will be very clear on is the need for the squad he has right now to be performing better. Barnsley may have been unlucky against Hull and Wednesday but they need to make their performances count – and put away chances – if they are going to climb the table.

Only Burton Albion have had fewer touches in the opposition box in the Championship this season and that needs to change quickly. Tom Bradshaw is the top goal scorer at the moment but he needs some help from his fellow attackers to ensure Barnsley are taking three points home on a more regular basis. Chelsea loanee Ike Ugbo has only one goal in a Barnsley shirt this season so he is one player that needs to make a bigger contribution to the side.

A Step Into the Unknown

With uncertainty over the completion date of the Chien Lee led takeover it is very difficult for Paul Heckingbottom - and the club as a whole - to plan ahead and that makes it difficult to know what the January transfer window holds. The summer saw a lot of players coming in and out of the club – including the loan signings made before the deadline – and without a takeover deal in place it would seem unlikely that much business could be completed in the New Year.

On the other hand, if there is money to spend, Barnsley may be able to pick up some new players – including some from overseas – to push the club back up the table. Chien Lee’s association with French club Nice will excite many fans as it could mean some squad players from the Ligue 1 club swapping the south coast of France for Oakwell in the New Year.

Uncertainty Reigns

With recent rumours of the takeover collapsing, Paul Heckingbottom has gone on record to vent his frustration at the situation - and with an injury to defender Adam Jackson he knows that an influx of funds would be ideal come the turn of the year. But with the fans still squarely behind the team it may be the support that helps Barnsley stay up this season – even if the takeover eventually goes through.

Source: BCFCStats via Twitter

Barnsley have had a difficult start to the Championship this term as Paul Heckingbottom looks to continue his tenure at Oakwell.

The Tykes lost several key players last season, ending the club’s hopes of a return to the Premier League for the first time in almost 20 years.

Alfie Mawson, Conor Hourihane, James Bree, and Sam Winnall all left Oakwell over the course of the campaign, which saw the club slide from the top half of the table late in January to mid-table mediocrity by the end of the term.

Barnsley lost other key men in the summer in the form of Marc Roberts, leaving to join Birmingham for £3.5m, and Marley Watkins, who joined Norwich City, increasing the difficulty of Heckingbottom’s task ahead of the new campaign.

New players arrived, including Brad Potts and Jason McCarthy on permanent deals, while Ike Ugo and Harvey Barnes joined on loan from Chelsea and Leicester City respectively.

The club have now endured back-to-back defeats, despite their early move into mid-table, following a 3-0 hammering of Sunderland and still remain one of the leading contenders for the drop, being backed in the latest football betting odds at odds of 1/1 to be relegated to League One.

Heckingbottom has made a habit of proving his doubters wrong, beginning with guiding the club out of the third tier through the playoffs. Few expected the Tykes to remain in the division last season but, once again, the club punched above their weight, even losing key players in the process.

One of the strengths of Barnsley’s last campaign was the contribution of goals from around the team. Winnall lead the way with 11 goals before he left the club at the end of January to join Sheffield Wednesday – he has since been moved on to Derby County on a loan deal.

The forward notched his strikes in just 21 appearances, and the club struggled to kill off teams after his departure, winning just twice in the remaining four months of the season. Watkins scored 10 in 42 appearances, while Hourihane had six before joining Aston Villa.

Adam Armstrong was next on the list with four strikes but he was a loanee and returned to Newcastle. The majority of the goals have been taken out of the team bar Tom Bradshaw.

Source: VillaMadTweets via Twitter

He has led the way thus far this term with two strikes, but he will need a lot of support to make up for the departures. Barnsley and Heckingbottom will feel hard done by to lose so many of their key players. They’ve shown guts and determination to overcome a difficult start to the term and will need a lot more of that and fresh quality from their new players to remain in the division.

Salvation could come in a potential takeover from a Chinese consortium, but until that deal is over the line and funds are made available, Barnsley have to rely on their most important asset – Heckingbottom - to drive them forward and keep them in the Championship.
Source: Barnsley Football Club via Facebook
Recent reports are suggesting that Barnsley could be the next Championship club to attract rich investment from overseas, as Chinese billionaire Chien Lei has made enquiries about buying a stake in the Yorkshire club. In the current climate, a big money takeover like this may be the only chance Barnsley have at clawing their way out of the second division and into the Premier League, as the Championship is becoming more ruled by money as the years go on.

There are a number of teams in the English second tier who have recently received parachute payments from dropping out of the top flight. These include Reading, who were relegated in 2013 and received £16 million; Cardiff and Fulham, who got over £16 million each following relegation in 2014; Queens Park Rangers, who have earned £31 million in parachute payments since 2014; Aston Villa, who got over £40 million in 2016; and Norwich City, who also got more than £40 million. Add to these clubs the recently demoted Middlesbrough, Sunderland, and Hull City, and that amounts to over one-third of sides in the division to have been given large sums of money to reinvest in their teams in the last four years.

Other clubs have also been gifted additional funds to spend in the transfer market thanks to attracting investment from wealthy investors. Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Cardiff, Fulham, Leeds United, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday, and Wolverhampton Wanderers have all pulled in overseas buyers who have begun pumping extra cash into the clubs.

Barnsley haven’t had a great start to the 2017-18 campaign, and lost three out of their five opening fixtures. As such, the Tykes were placed as 13/5 outsiders with bitcoin betting site Sportsbet to overcome Sunderland in their fifth fixture, despite the fact that the Black Cats were going into the game after suffering a 2-0 home loss to Leeds. Certainly, up to now, Barnsley haven’t been a reliable team to bet on, but there are other options for bitcoin bettors who want to have a flutter with a currency that isn’t subject to fluctuating exchange rates. Have a look at this blog to learn about why more people are turning towards bitcoin as the currency for betting.

Perhaps if the Lee takeover goes through then the fortunes of the Super Reds may change. This season, Barnsley rank 20th out of the 24 teams in the league in terms of money spent in the summer transfer window. They have only spent £567,000 so far, while Garry Monk has been allowed to splash £47.21 million at Middlesbrough. Nine clubs in the division have spent more than £10 million on players. The prospective buyer’s International Investment Group controls an 80% share in French club OGC Nice, who have spent £18.72 million on players this summer. That kind of monetary injection would go a long way in the Championship.

As it stands, it is believed that the Chinese billionaire has only expressed an interest in buying Barnsley. But in the current climate, it seems as though attracting an investor like this is the only way to compete in a league which is becoming richer and richer.
Source: Ike Ugbo official Twitter page

Not many people would have expected Barnsley to survive in the Championship last season. Having been promoted from League One at the end of the 2015-16 campaign only via the playoffs, the South Yorkshire outfit were expected to be among the clubs to get relegated back to the third tier of English football right away. It is not easy for clubs from League One to compete on the pitch and off it when they get promoted to the Championship, and Barnsley were not expected to be any different.

Barnsley, though, surprised everyone and stayed up in the second tier of English football. In fact, the South Yorkshire club finished as high as 14th in the Championship last season. Paul Heckingbottom was handed the role of the head coach at the start of the 2016-17 campaign, and the 40-year-old did a wonderful job at Oakwell. The Tykes finished above the likes of Nottingham Forest, Birmingham City, Queens Park Rangers, Ipswich Town and Wolverhampton Wanderers - clubs who have been in the Premier League before and who are traditionally seen as bigger with a larger fan base.

Not many will be expecting Barnsley to challenge for a top-six finish in the Championship during the 2017-18 campaign, but the Oakwell faithful will want the team to push on from last season. Of course, the main objective for Heckingbottom’s side has to be avoiding relegation to League One as in the long run that is not healthy for the club, but another mid-table finish would be hugely welcomed by the fans. To that effect, Barnsley have been quite active in the summer transfer window and have made a number of signings so far.

Left-back Zeki Fryers, 24, has moved on a free transfer following his departure from Crystal Palace at the end of last season, 21-year-old central defender Liam Lindsay has joined from Partick Thistle, 21-year-old midfielder Stevie Mallan has switched from St. Mirren, and right-back Jason McCarthy, also 21, has arrived from Southampton. Midfielder Cameron McGeehan, 24-year-old winger Lloyd Isgrove, 23-year-old midfielder Brad Potts, Matty Pearson - who is 24 years old and can operate as a defender or as a midfielder - and 22-year-old Mamadou Thiam, who can play as a forward or as a winger, have also made permanent moves to Barnsley.

Then, there is Harvey Barnes, the 19-year-old midfielder who has been signed on a season-long loan deal from Leicester City, who won the Premier League title during the 2015-16 campaign.

Source: Chelsea official Twitter page

Manager Heckingbottom has recruited young, energetic and vibrant players, and it seems that he wants players whom he can coach and train to become better. Of course, for a club like Barnsley who have limited funds and restricted pulling power, they cannot afford to make big-name signings, but the young players that the Reds have brought in could prove to be a huge success. Another youngster who will be expected to be a success at Oakwell is Ike Ugbo. The 18-year-old forward has been recruited on a season-long loan deal from last season’s Premier League champions Chelsea, and the youngster will be aiming to establish himself as a key player in the team as the season progresses.

Ugbo has been at Chelsea since 2007 and this is the first time that the teenage forward has been sent out to a club where he can get experience of professional football. The youngster played 15 times for the England Under-17 side and has scored one goal in three appearances for the England Under-20 team so far in his career. The forward has already made three starts in all competitions for the Tykes so far this season, and his performances have been relatively encouraging for an 18-year-old getting his first taste of professional football.

Ugbo opened the scoring as brilliant Barnsley put three past an out-of-sorts Sunderland in their last home fixture. A hugely talented and promising young forward who has a keen eye for goal and has a lot of potential, the Chelsea-owned forward could easily score 15 to 20 goals in the Championship this season, and that should be enough to see Barnsley finish above the relegation zone in the second tier of English football.

Could Ugbo finish the 2017-18 season as the top scorer in the Championship? The odds of the Barnsley forward doing that are 100/1, and although that does look like a long shot, it could be a smart long-term investment if you take advantage of the free bets on offer on Oddschecker and wager a small amount on him. After all, not many would have expected Tammy Abraham to be as successful for Bristol City in the Championship last season as he was. 

The 19-year-old striker scored 23 goals in the league during the 2016-17 campaign, same as many as more established strikers Glenn Murray (Brighton and Hove Albion) and Dwight Gayle (Newcastle United) who were playing in better teams with better midfield players to create chances for them. Abraham scored just four fewer goals in the league than top scorer Chris Wood of Leeds United, who narrowly failed to finish in the top six last season. Could Ugbo be this season’s Tammy Abraham? Why not? With his talent, hunger and will to succeed, and a coach like Heckingbottom, the English teenager can certainly surprise a few defenders in the Championship this season. Moreover, the youngster has the 'surprise factor' - opposition teams in the Championship do not know exactly what to expect from him.

Ugbo has a strong record for the Chelsea youth teams. The youngster scored 23 goals in 35 matches for the Chelsea Under-23 and Under-18 sides last season. The teenager was also successful with the England Under-20 side at the 2017 Toulon Tournament earlier in the summer. Earlier in his career, the youngster played in a number of positions, and this experience could come handy as the season progresses. The youngster will also bring a winning mentality to the Barnsley squad. The teenager was part of the Chelsea team that won back-to-back UEFA Youth League titles in 2015 and 2016.

Barnsley are among the favourites for relegation to League One at the end of the season, according to latest betting odds, and their start to the 2017-18 Championship campaign has been far from impressive. However, the Tykes were similarly underestimated last season, and they ended up above some of the bigger clubs in the division. Could something similar happen this time around? Yes, it certainly can, especially with Ugbo in the team. If the forward continues to the bang the goals in, then the Barnsley fans will be in for a great ride.
For some clubs, the League Cup is not a priority but for Barnsley, it should be. After losing to Bristol City on the opening weekend of the new season, Paul Heckingbottom’s men showed plenty of grit and determination to defeat Morecambe in a seven-goal thriller at Oakwell.

Source: Barnsley Football Club via Facebook

With the Tykes now in the hat for the next round, Barnsley could place greater emphasis on the Carabao Cup than some of their Championship rivals. In the grand scheme of things, reaching the third or fourth round of the competition isn’t as important as getting points on the board but building momentum could help Barnsley in the long term.

The Tykes are expected to struggle for the most part of the season and the key to Championship survival could be momentum – especially on home soil. Barnsley lost just six games at home last term and Heckingbottom’s side were unbeaten in their final six matches at Oakwell.

Ask yourself this... should Barnsley be conceding three goals against a team of Morecambe's stature on home soil? Probably not. However, the main thing is Barnsley won and they have advanced to the next stage of the competition.

Beating a League Two side is nothing to shout about but for the Tykes, it could be colossal. Heckingbottom knows that Barnsley, who recently signed Everton midfielder Joe Williams on a season-long loan are in need of a confidence boost and scoring four goals against any side has to be spun with a positive angle.

With so many football fans expecting Barnsley to be involved in a relegation scrap, it would be sensational if the Tykes could defy the odds and climb the Championship table.

 Plenty of punters will be keen to back Barnsley to avoid the drop and you can request a wager via the Sky service, more information relating to these markets is available at Footy Accumulators when you’re online, and Heckingbottom’s men will out to prove everyone wrong.

The second round of the Carabao Cup is just a couple of weeks away and Barnsley fans will be expecting more success in the near future. Should the Tykes progress further, the chance to face strong Premier League opposition opens up and that should serve as motivation.

Barnsley probably aren’t going to go and finish in the playoff places but to label the Tykes as contenders to finish at the foot of the Championship table is insulting. Heckingbottom can lead Barnsley up the table in the coming months and the Carabao Cup might just be the catalyst.
Sitting here at my keyboard, it sounds like there's the brooding tune and tone being played by a colliery brass band throughout this post. Everything I anticipate writing, especially over the next few paragraphs, seems to point to my perceived inequality of a system which is broken, but accepted by many.

The situation

Any TV money is only a small chunk of the revenue that any Championship club will receive this season. The EFL do not hand out prize money based on positions. This means that any team competing will receive a flat amount of money,  whether you are on course for automatic promotion or certain relegation.

Every club receives the same ‘basic award’ of £2.084 million. This reflects the EFL giving an equal share of the TV deal negotiated with Sky to broadcast Championship games to every club in the division, regardless of where they finish. The EFL also give every club in the Championship a £4.3million ‘solidarity payment’. The money is donated by the Premier League to ensure the gap from the second tier to top flight does not expand any further.

My issue
Despite their marketing, last season Sky demonstrated that it was mainly concerned with a narrow proportion of teams who were plying their trade in the Championship. Frequent appearances were made by Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Brighton & Hove Albion, Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday on their "showpiece" slots.

How can that be representative of a diverse and unpredictable division? Consider this; Championship clubs are awarded £100,000 for every home game broadcast on Sky, while they are given a £10,000 bonus for away clashes on the box. It means that clubs like Aston Villa received the following last season;
  • Basic award: £2.084m (received by all Championship clubs)
  • Solidarity payment: £4.3m (received by all Championship clubs)
  • Money for being on TV: £520,000
  • Total: £6.9m
Yet parachute payments still equalled an estimated £40million for Villa, in the first year after their relegation from the Premier League

Supporters are constantly being asked to spend more of their time travelling on the road, to meet the broadcasters' needs at ridiculous times. But my overriding issue is simply this. If Sky need the weight of the 'bigger clubs' to support the marketing of football on their network, let's make it a bit more even. Why should they have their games consistently televised and at their home ground and gain the greatest share of the revenue available?

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The evidence

Of the games already scheduled, from 4 August to 1 October 2017; Sheffield Wednesday will have already accumulated three home games and £300k into the bargain, before the rest of the league has even reached Halloween. Villa, appear twice at home and twice away, picking up a smart £240k.
By comparison, Barnsley will appear at home once,  worth £100k.

The impact

Whilst my imaginary colliery band continue to play, I realise I can be myopic at times. But when you consider the cost of ground improvements, scoreboards, academies and general expenses that all clubs have to find cash for every season - the sums here are 'small change' to the marketing machines of the 'City' clubs. A revolution in the share of TV revenue and a new strategy would transform the football experience for the less well off. Why can't Sky see this?

The wealthy clubs will always carry their weight in negotiations. It's about who shouts the loudest and the threat they carry if they are not being heard. Maybe a responsible broadcaster will eventually balance the needs of their advertising partners, along with the standards of fair competition and opportunity for all.

It might be a crazy concept folks, but why can't they simply televise and promote a sporting competition involving all, without favour? Even if they hated that concept, it could be far more gladatorial, by pitting the richest team (away) versus the media pundit's underdog at home. Surely this would be far more mouthwatering and truly representative of what the Championship is all about?

The irony

The EFL have rejected a one-year extension on their agreement with Sky and now their rivals, BT Sport, are prepared to outbid them.  BT Sport will now look to add the Sky Bet Football League, Capital One Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to their portfolio of sport. With any new deal likely to start at the beginning of the 2019/20 season.

Despite all of these commercial moves, does anybody feel this will make any difference? We would love to see your comments (below) and invite you to join the Super Reds debate, here On The Ponty End!