Synergy - when the end product is greater than the sum of its’ parts, where 2+2=5

Fans listening to Keith Hill’s Radio Sheffield interview following the Blackburn defeat (listen again here) will have heard a well publicised rant regarding the parachute payments, but more importantly, a quote from Keith Hill that really stuck in my mind - “Look where we are, we’re little old Barnsley” with reference to the fact that John Stones had been taken off injured following what should have been a red card challenge from Dickson Etuhu, when Bobby Hassell had been given a 3 game suspension for much less, amongst the other circumstances which stack against us every time we grace the pitch.

Barnsley fans know the score, the stadium isn’t even half full, the pundits continually expect us to finish bottom, and we can’t afford the same quality of players that the likes of Blackburn (parachute payments in tow) can afford. This is why the Reds must achieve a result greater than the sum of the components, as our individual ‘components’ will not be able to match those of other clubs. So what is Keith Hill’s formula for synergy?

Playing style

It is well known that Keith Hill demands four things from every player that puts on a Barnsley shirt: Hard Work, Endeavour, Brainpower and Creativity - whilst wanting to play a ‘style of football that will bare dividends both on and off the pitch’. Keith Hill’s men played in what is becoming a familiar 4-1-3-2 narrow formation, where Martin Cranie stands guard ahead of the back four, allowing the likes of Jacob Mellis and Tomasz Cywka to do the type of damage they are capable of, whilst maintaining a fluid passing style of football, and a hard working pressing game without the ball.

The Players

The formation which proved the most successful for the Reds last season was 4-2-3-1, where Jacob Butterfield sat just behind the lone striker. However, this season I believe we have a better team player in Jacob Mellis. The former Chelsea man appears to have turned the corner under Keith Hill, constantly pressing the ball in all areas of the pitch, whilst remaining a threat with his creative and incisive passing. Whatever Butterfield could do, Mellis can do better - teams will find it difficult to rest, as Birmingham did, with Mellis on the field. What makes Mellis most impressive however, is this work in the team, alongside Tomasz Cywka, with Stephen Dawson and Martin Cranie holding things together. All of the midfield appear comfortable on the ball, and are making it difficult for teams to break through with the ability to get the ball back very quickly thanks to their pressing game. The passing game this season so far has been exquisite, and has been the biggest contributing factor in my opinion to an unbeaten start at home, as well as 2 impressive performances away, which deserved more than just the one win.

Add to that the ever improving front two of Craig Davies and Chris Dagnall. Whilst ‘Daggers’ came under much uncalled for criticism last year, Dagnall has continually worked hard in every game, and is becoming a genuine threat in the opposition’s box, providing 2 assists in the last 2 games, whilst being ever so unlucky not to score himself. Davies has improved no end, with the ability to hold up the ball for Dagnall or another player joining the attack, allowing himself to then move on and get into scoring positions. As we saw last night, Davies also has much improved composure in front of goal, and made a future England prospect (if the press it to believed) in Jack Butland look like an ordinary keeper, when in actual fact he kept the Blues in the game. Will Dagnall become a 20 goal a season striker? No, however his role is important in the team, with his pressing game forcing defences into playing the ball long or making mistakes on the floor, whilst proving a threat laying the ball off to players linking up, or providing assists for them.

Then of course there’s the solid foundation on which the rest of the team is built, the defence. Scott Wiseman appears to have found his best position at centre back, and Stephen Foster seems to finally be nailing his game on the ground. Despite being made team captain this term, Jim McNulty could well struggle to get back into the side as it stands, which looks overall more solid. Out wide the Reds have even more strength, with Tom Kennedy coming in for a very impressive debut at his non-preffered right back position, and Scott Golbourne improving game by game. Barnsley are now capable of playing the ball out from the back and also relieving pressure by passing it around the back and to goalkeeper Ben Alnwick with ease. Scott Wiseman might prove to be the leader the Reds need this season, with his will, determination and honesty typifying what this Barnsley side is about. He appeared truly devastated on Tuesday night, but equally delighted for his side after thrashing what on paper should have been a very good Birmingham side


Of the team yesterday, 3 were out of their traditional positions; Cranie, Wiseman and Kennedy - though flexibility seems to run throughout this Barnsley side. As players return from injury, the Reds will have the likes of David Perkins, Matt Done and young sensation John Stones to throw into the fray, in addition to the likes of Toni Silva, Jim McNulty and longer term absentees Jim O’Brien and Mido. Though Alnwick has grown in confidence and ability with every game, the Reds still have player of the season Luke Steele at their disposal from the bench, who may spend longer sat there than initially anticipated


Keith Hill has built a side that wants to work for each other, the manager and the fans, whilst playing entertaining football at the same time. Despite having been hit with injuries and suspensions and making numerous changes to the side, Keith Hill appears to be able to throw anyone into the fray knowing that they can do a job. Despite scoring 4 goals yesterday, Craig Davies has already stated that he wishes to settle down and Barnsley and put pen to paper on a new deal when it is offered to him. The Reds have no loanees in the side, and I believe that is the reason Keith Hill, the fans and the players themselves can believe in whichever eleven grace the pitch.

By no means will Barnsley be the best team on paper in any game they play this season, however together with the playing style, their endeavours and Keith Hill’s guidance, this Reds side could go far this season, currently standing in 12th only 3 off the play-offs. What can we as fans do? Not get carried away either way whether we win or lose. Singing ‘up the football league we go’ or the typical midterm chant of ‘we’re not going down and we’re not going up’ does little for the on the pitch performances, however the chants that begun yesterday of “Look where we are, look where we are, we’re little old Barnsley, look where we are” should be what Barnsley fans stand by. With Keith Hill in charge, this bunch of players and the fans behind them, ‘little old Barnsley’ in my opinion will continue to overachieve for a long time to come.

Don’t forget to comment below with your thoughts, or add to the debate on Twitter by following me @MichaelRoach55 and @OnThePontyEnd - I hope you enjoyed reading this article and continue to back The Reds!
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5 comments so far,add yours

Anonymous said...

Pal the hype is there and we are loving 5-0. Don't forget we are Barnsley FC and again we will struggle all season. 6 points will prove me wrong in the next two home games!!!

Anonymous said...

Yes look where we are, little old Barnsley; founder members of the 2nd division and the most seasons in the 2nd tier, winners of the FA Cup and semi finalists 4 years ago and brief gate-crashers at the big nobs Premiership Club in 1997/8.

All done on a shoestring and usually without the slightest bit of interest from the media - unless of course they're taking the p*ss out of us. I don't care though, days like yesterday make it all worth while.

I was at Brum for the playoff match in 2000 and never thought I'd see anything like that again. I'd go as far as to say that yesterday was the most one-sided match I've ever seen, even more so than the 7-1 against Huddersfield in 1999.

We have a lot to be proud of, YOU REDS.

Unknown said...

To the first comment I agree, let's not get carried away with either a win or loss, as stated before - however let's be optimistic that we can improve year on year. From the games I've seen this year (Rochdale cup, all the home games, Blackburn and Brum) I've seen performances that were better than last year, played in the right way and above all enjoyable - hence why I believe Hill has found the right formula. I think we've got better players, in addition to a management team that's learnt a lot. I'll be sure to take stock after the 10 game mark, which is normally where the pundits cash in early opinions

To the second comment I couldn't agree more - the media don't like us but let's go about our business, playing football the right way and running a club which is debt free. My only hope is that more fans would get through the turnstiles to see the enjoyable performances we've been turning in. Hopefully the fact that yesterday's game on the telly was for all to see might bring a bit of a boost to the crowd next weekend

Anonymous said...

A cracking little article. Along with Whitey's 'Tarn Review' it seems we're now overloaded with blogging talent.

I do however have one issue, and that's your claim that Mellis is better than Butterfield. I don't buy that. Perhaps he will prove to be at some point, but as it stands, I'd have the other Jacob instead.

But yes, great read. You should be proud.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comment

In terms of raw ability I would agree with you, Butterfield was better, however in order to achieve the 'synergy' Barnsley require, we need a more all round team player than Butterfield was. Mellis is doing that for me as he's 10 times better in terms of work rate and pressing play, yet still manages to get into those playmaking positions and make dangerous passes like Butterfield - and he's started to add goals to his game too. For me Butterfield's attitude was also his biggest problem and Mellis seems to have lost his - in terms of developing a successful team I believe Mellis is the better player for that