May 2013
This summer, keep up to date with the latest Barnsley FC tittle-tattle with On The Ponty End's round-up of the current gossip taking place on Twitter.

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We want to hear about rumours you've seen on other websites, the blather you got whilst travelling in a taxi, the story that came from a well connected source, the prattle everybody seemed to be on about in your local pub. If it concerns loan deals or even reports linking new owners with the Reds, don't hold back.

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The events of the Huddersfield game will naturally go down in Reds’ folklore and stay in the minds of Barnsley fans for years to come thanks to the achievement of what seemed a mammoth task at Christmas. Flitcroft and the players produced unprecedented promotion form, whilst uniting a fan base and a dressing room. However the hard work has just begun, and if the Reds are to build, and learn from this year, the board needs to make simple but effective changes, whilst creating a long term plan for this club. 

It is well known that Patrick Cryne intends to sell the club, however the board needs to continue to plan as if they’ll be here for the next five or ten years. Be it through financial crisis or not, the club has lost numerous fans and struggled to adapt to their consumers’ new climate - seeing some of the lowest attendances this season since returning to the Championship. Games that once had 20,000 spectators now have 15,000, and regular matchday crowds which used to push 11,000 sometimes fail to push 9000. As the board, being experienced businessmen have stated, a price drop simply isn’t the answer, and it is a risk the club are not willing to take - though when the club did answer the calls in January, spectator numbers barely increased.

Naturally, in the uncertainty surrounding the close to this season, prices for next season’s season ticket were released late, however the board have once again failed to try something innovative, and market it to death. Hartepool United for example have sold out season tickets due to deposit guarantee schemes, which is perhaps tricky to implement, but something that would have been opportunity for the board to do something positive in the community. Barnsley FC naturally doesn’t have a huge marketing budget ton encapsulate this community, however the steps it could take don’t need to break the bank - they just require a change of tact.

David Flitcroft, in his four months in charge united the fans in a manner that is unheard of in modern times (other than perhaps in the case of the departing Sir Alex) - with ninety-nine, if not one hundred percent of the fans behind him. His inspirational team talks and team huddles have become YouTube hits - showing that his values and messages can truly resonate within football fans. Flitcroft  along with the team that performed this season’s heroics should take to the town for a day and truly try to re-align with the community that the football club represents. Abandon Facebook and Twitter - for the day, and sing the club’s praises from the rooftops. 

It might be argued that if the club are to progress though, and if any of the measures suggested should be heard, or should have been heard by the board, then the fans need to answer the club’s rallying call. It’s essentially about balance, the club needs to offer a financial package that appeals to fans, and wash away it’s “£30 a game” stigma that has grown attached to it by spreading it’s message beyond social networks and trying something new to bring in the punters. Flitcroft, Mellon and Scott’s team have largely spoke for themselves this season, and that’s a trick the club really ought not to miss. If the club awarded the fans with an accessible price on match days or for the season, then the fans would need to get off the club’s back and support it on to bigger and better things next season.

Barnsley will never be the richest club in the Championship, but now is the prime opportunity for the club to build a positive image around David Flitcroft’s work. Fans need to hear positivity from the club, as does the club from the fans. Now is the time to let past events be forgotten, and build next season as if it were our first in this league. Barnsley supporters are realistic; they know that the finances needed to progress in this league are beyond what the current budget can produce - however if the club becomes pro-active in promoting itself to the fan base, and aims higher, then this can help to maintain the buzz created around Oakwell in remaining in the division and hopefully generate the extra income needed to create a situation where 21st place isn’t ‘lucky’ or an achievement ‘beyond belief’. It is possible to become a force in the Championship, but as this season has shown, this comes from adapting to the supporters rather than trying to adapt too highly to the division. Barnsley fans want a total product experience which is perceivably good value for money - decent ales, decent atmosphere and decent food at a decent price. All are achievable by extending ‘Flitcroft’s Barnsley Brand’ to the people by creating real value for money rather than just following other championship clubs’ trends. Naturally there is risk in reviewing prices, food and bar experiences, but a value for money and creative Barnsley Brand experience at a football match, as opposed to mass produced commercialised football could rejuvenate this club in the same way that local and craft ales have rejuvenated local pubs. 

I believe that this club could have gone, and could still go in part from to strength to strength by taking steps towards the fan base this summer, which will unite the fans and club like never before, both on the pitch by developing the academy and a side of hard-working players, and off the pitch by creating a good old fashioned Yorkshire match day atmosphere. By no means is this a simple task, but one that could bring the supporters back to Oakwell, and spur the team on to become a continued force in the Championship, with the occasional play-off push - in other words, no more great escapes! I just fear that the season ticket prices announced look set to undermine Flitcroft’s hard work.

This has been my first post for a while due to various commitments, so please let me know your thoughts in the comments below and by tweeting myself @MichaelRoach55 and @OnThePontyEnd on Twitter - hopefully I'll be able to contribute more next season!

What a weekend. Have we ever experienced such feelings of joy and relief together, amongst a tide of abounding emotions, at extremities like that before? Will we ever again? Did you cry?

The Championship roller-coaster that was 2012/13 has slammed on its brakes and Barnsley can celebrate that we're still on the passenger list for next season. As the dust begins to settle during the summer, maybe I'll be able to get my head around the season properly and reflect on the journey we had in more detail. Right now, I remain utterly amazed.

Before the season began, we were already everybody's strugglers, in the perennial prediction game that had Barnsley set for relegation certainties, often from the same people who had Wolves and Bolton down for an instant return to the Premiership. It's a funny old game!

We were reminded constantly by Mr Hill that our expectations to differ and remain in the 2nd tier were highly unrealistic and built his relationship with supporters on that basis from very early on in his tenure. A change at the top was protracted. By late November the writing was on the wall.

In the end, the decision was made on 29th December, leaving Flicker in temporary charge whilst the board started the search for the club's 10th manager since Dave Bassett led us to the Championship play-off final in 2000.

Talk about jumping from the frying pan and in to the fire then! The utter indignation I felt as our progress (or lack of it) was aired in public, with candidates publishing entire press releases explaining their reasons for rejecting Barnsley's advances. Including League 1 bound Bristol City Manager, Sean O'Driscoll and ex-England Captain, Terry Butcher.

Certainly by accident, rather than by design, Flicker stood up to the challenge, took control of the situation, waded in to and resolved a significant amount of negativity that was being felt, picked us up and carried the whole club forward - to fight on.

Table from Barnsley FC Fixtures with David Flitcroft in charge 2012/13
Table generated from fixtures played 1st January (Peterborough 2 - 1 Barnsley)
through to Saturday 4th May (Huddersfield Town 2 - 2 Barnsley)

What he has achieved in just 21 league games (which include the fixtures he was in temporary charge) is nothing less than miraculous. If you then include the FA Cup run he masterminded, surely you have to consider him already as deserving legendary status at our beloved club. Would anyone disagree?

Speculation will be rife. Could the achievements of this team act as a catalyst for much bigger changes ahead? Will the club court interest from new owners, keen to be involved in Championship football now our status is fully confirmed? Will Flicker get the opportunity to roll-out a blueprint for long term success at Barnsley Football Club, which includes player development at its core?

In just 4 short months, David Flitcroft has transformed opinions and built a new stature for Barnsley FC in the football world. What could be achieved in four years?

Thanks for visiting and reading this latest blog entry. It's been a whirlwind of a season, it would be great to hear about some of your experiences and hopes for the Reds next season, please comment below. Join the debate on Twitter by following @OnThePontyEnd.