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.