Rewind to 15 March 2015. Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal taunted his neighbours and City rivals by stating "Whether they want that or don't want that, that is the position," said Van Gaal after United's 3-0 win over Spurs. "It is a rat race. They are in it."

Whilst fancy, overpriced, Premier [Fantasy] Football is not our fayre or preferred topic, the observation Van Gaal made was probably a more accurate description of the pressure cooker that is League One and the intense battle that is being played out by almost every side in the top twelve.

In our recent post in this series, we gained an insight from those fans whose teams still have a realistic shout at an automatic spot. No doubt, last weekend's battling draw at Oakwell versus Preston North End, will have been appreciated at Stadium:mk and the County Ground.

Today, we look at the nearby 'Rat Race' for the most realistic last [two] places available. And with confidence seemingly brimming from every quarter around us, should Barnsley fans start praying that a 'plague' of poor form consumes our rivals?

Sheffield United

Based on your form and any remaining fixtures, how many points do you think your team will accumulate in total this season?

We haven't got any of the teams [who are currently occupying] the top six left to play, but saying that, our current form has been poor, so I would be looking at maybe around 18 points [76 points in total].

Are there any potential banana skins during the final leg of the League One season or any specific fixtures you fear?

We have still got three local teams around us; Barnsley, Doncaster Rovers and Chesterfield. I see us getting all six points from the two fixtures against Doncaster (7 April) and Chesterfield [3 May] at home. Barnsley are in such good form at the minute, so I don't see us getting anything there.

Where do you think your team finish in the League One table?

I think we could finish in sixth position just, but with the form the teams in and around us are in then it will more than likely be seventh.

Would a play-off place be considered as success or failure for your club?

I think it would probably be considered a success, but I think for our club [Sheffield United] it should be at least the play-offs as a minimum.

Whilst it's slightly premature to be asking, can you sum up your season in a single sentence?

Poor, drab, unenjoyable football and lacklustre in the final third. 

Thanks to Callum Cheswick for his contribution.
Follow on Twitter @Calblade147 or catch his updates on Vital Sheffield United

Peterborough United

Based on your form and any remaining fixtures, how many points do you think your team will accumulate in total this season?

[Short and sweet] 69

Are there any potential banana skins during the final leg of the League One season or any specific fixtures you fear?

To me a banana skin would be a game which we lose and as result no longer have our play-off position within our own hands - so that would have to Barnsley away [Sat 18 April]. I personally fear every fixture now that we have sixth place though, I don't want to lose it!

Where do you think your team finish in the League One table?

[To the point] Sixth (just)

Would a play-off place be considered as success or failure for your club?

At the start of the season it would have probably been seen as a failure, but after the run we've had it can only be seen as a massive success.

Whilst it's slightly premature to be asking, can you sum up your season in a single sentence?

An absolute roller coaster, where we lost many games and lost many faces, but in the end it looks like everything has come good.

Thanks to Kelly Green for her contribution.
Follow on Twitter @kellmarie92

Rochdale AFC

Based on your form and any remaining fixtures, how many points do you think your team will accumulate in total this season?

I reckon sixteen more points for us between now and the final game. That would take us to 69 points going into that last game of the season. Will 72 points get us in the play-offs?

Are there any potential banana skins during the final leg of the League One season or any specific fixtures you fear?

As above, that last game of the season at Oakwell sticks out somewhat. It could be a cracking winner takes all fixture for the final position in the play-offs, especially with the return of a certain Mr Hill. All the pressure will be on the home side, and I'm sure Barnsley fans will fear the obvious scenario.

Where do you think your team finish in the League One table?

My gut feeling says that we'll finish outside of the play-offs. We are in good form right now and with games in hand, the balls in our court and all that, but I reckon we will be hard pushed to fully maintain it between now and the end of the season. 

Would a play-off place be considered as success or failure for your club?

If we finish in the play-offs, it will be our highest placed finish in the club's history, so it's fair to say that it will be a considerable success. The feeling seems to be that reaching the play-offs would be the success, and it being a stepping stone to the Championship seems almost secondary. I guess that is what comes from having spent most of your life fighting it out in the 'Rochdale Division'. 

Whilst it's slightly premature to be asking, can you sum up your season in a single sentence?

A typical Keith Hill season where we've achieved beyond all expectations, making a mockery of the financial disparity between ourselves and our peers.

Many thanks to Col Cavanagh for his contribution.
Follow via Twitter @RochdaleAFC.com or catch his updates on RochdaleAFC.com

Doncaster Rovers

Based on your form and any remaining fixtures, how many points do you think your team will accumulate in total this season?

We have been very inconsistent of late, this coupled with the fact that we have some incredibly tough fixtures ahead of us in the coming weeks, it’s going to make it difficult for us to accumulate many points. I can see us finishing on the 66 points mark come the end of the season.

Are there any potential banana skins during the final leg of the League One season or any specific fixtures you fear?

The next game is always a potential banana skin! We have some big games coming up against the likes of MK Dons, Bradford City and Sheffield United to name a few, and if we buckle under the pressure against these promotion contending sides, it could have an adverse effect on our run-in.

Where do you think your team finish in the League One table?

I’ve said since the start of the season that we would finish around the ninth/tenth mark, so I’ll say ninth. There are so many teams in the play-off hunt who have a lot of momentum and we could struggle to catch-up if we lose vital games against them.

Would a play-off place be considered as success or failure for your club?

In the overall context of our season, not getting a play-off place shouldn’t be regarded as a total failure. Obviously, expectations are raised when you are in and around the play-offs at the ‘business end’ of the season. So for this reason, I feel that a handful of fans could see a finish lower than 6th place as a poor season, especially after competing very well against some very good Championship sides during the previous season.

Whilst it's slightly premature to be asking, can you sum up your season in a single sentence?

Tactical naivety and individual errors, coupled with poor home form. 

Thanks to James Errington for his contibution.
Follow via Twitter @JimmyDRFC

Thanks for reading. If you have any views on how you think the final league table might look, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch with us on Twitter and Facebook, or leave your comments on this post below.

The season is now well within its final quarter. At long last, excited Barnsley fans can actually look forward to the remaining schedule of fixtures that lay ahead. Alive with hopes and dreams, the potential rewards are in our sights and within our each. Dare we dream of a possible end-of-season hurrah at Wembley? Could we escape from League One at the first time of asking?

With only five points separating fourth placed Sheffield United to twelfth placed Doncaster, it could be a race between seven teams (including the Reds) for the [most realistic] last two spots. The latest odds with Paddy Power sees us 4/1 to finish in the top 6, and 20/1 to achieve promotion.

Bristol City may have all but guaranteed their safe berth to the Championship, as any capitulation at this stage would be one of biggest reversals of form ever seen. Of course, football folklore is being written all the time, even when the scenario might seem impossible.

What do those fans who are closest to their teams think? Is confidence in abundance throughout the top half of the division? Doing the mathematics and predictions for us, we spoke to some of our rivals in League One who gave us their low down on the climax to the 2014/15 season.

Bristol City

Based on your form and any remaining fixtures, how many points do you think your team will accumulate in total this season?

I would like to think, with the form we've shown this year, that we can reach three figures [in points] and win the league - beating Wolves' total the other year.

Are there any potential banana skins during the final leg of the League One season or any specific fixtures you fear?

Preston North End (Away, Sat 11 April) could be interesting, if the gap is closed between now and then.

Where do you think your team finish in the League One table?

I would be disappointed if we're not top. We've been there for the majority of the season.

Would a play-off place be considered as success or failure for your club?

Failure. We are guaranteed the play-offs now. Getting that [outcome] would be a major fail.

Whilst it's slightly premature to be asking, can you sum up your season in a single sentence?

Driven, togetherness on and off the field - led by the this season's best manager and influenced by the fan's passion.

Many thanks to Stu Radnedge for his contribution.
Follow on Twitter @stu_radnedge or catch his updates on The Exiled Robin.

Preston North End

Based on your form and any remaining fixtures, how many points do you think your team will accumulate in total this season?

The aim for any team is to pick up two points a game, on average, over the season. Anyone who does that is almost certainly promoted. If we keep up this impressive form then we might challenge Bristol City for top spot, but just getting out this league is the priority.

Are there any potential banana skins during the final leg of the League One season or any specific fixtures you fear?

We've got to play Bristol and Swindon, but both at Fortress Deepdale where we've only lost once all season in the league. Barnsley are flying under Johnson and this weekend's game will be tough. Saying that, there are no gimmies in this league, it's one of the closest leagues in terms of ability, as everyone is on a pretty level playing field in terms of finances. Our run in isn't that tough on paper, but as we all know; Anyone can beat Anyone.

Where do you think your team finish in the League One table?

Head says second, but would love to pip Bristol City to top spot. Getting promoted at Port Vale would be fantastic - given their love for our main man Garner.

Would a play-off place be considered as success or failure for your club?

Please don't mention those words! Nine play-off failures, the worst in English football. If you had offered me a play-off spot in January, when we had a horrendous month (not winning a league game) I would have probably snapped your hand off.

Whilst it's slightly premature to be asking, can you sum up your season in a single sentence?

A steady start that has blossomed since the return of the Jackal and the purchase of  Daniel Johnson (from Aston Villa for a rumoured £50k fee).

Many thanks to Jimmy for his contribution.
Follow via Twitter @baysidepne / @pnefansteam

Swindon Town

Based on your form and any remaining fixtures, how many points do you think your team will accumulate in total this season?

I don't like to speculate about points tallies, but I would have to say it will need to be pretty high for how tight the league is.

Are there any potential banana skins during the final leg of the League One season or any specific fixtures you fear?

Any game has the potential to be a banana skin at this stage of the season. The games I most worry about are the away game against Bristol City, Preston North End and the home game to MK Dons [Sat 4 April]. These games will surely decide whether or not we achieve a top two place this season. 

Where do you think your team finish in the League One table?

I hope we make second [automatic] place, but my head tells me it will be third place.

Would a play-off place be considered as success or failure for your club?

We were considered relegation favourites [at the start of the season] so to achieve the play-offs would be a massive success. However, after being in and around the top three for the whole of this season, I think there would be a slight air of disappointment.

Whilst it's slightly premature to be asking, can you sum up your season in a single sentence?

A young vibrant squad that loves upsetting the odds.

Many thanks to Calvin Hothi for his contribution.
Follow via Twitter @CalvinHothi45

MK Dons

Based on your form and any remaining fixtures, how many points do you think your team will accumulate in total this season?

Hard question to answer with any certainty, but I expect us to achieve 85 points plus. Depending on Preston North End's run in and form, we might just squeak into the second automatic position, but it's the play-offs that look like being the most likely.

Are there any potential banana skins during the final leg of the League One season or any specific fixtures you fear?

If you look at our run, the stand out fixture is away to Swindon in April and that could well define our end of season position. Win or draw and we could push for the Auto's, lose and it's the play-offs. Our results in the big games this season has been great though. Other than Swindon, the Fleetwood Town fixture (Away, Tues 14 April) looks very tricky.

Where do you think your team finish in the League One table?

My head says third or fourth, but my heart says second.

Would a play-off place be considered as success or failure for your club?

Pre-Season, most of our supporters would have been ecstatic at the thought of the play-offs, but we went on that fantastic run of form and topped the table, which brought a great deal of optimism that we could even go on and gain an automatic place. If it is to be the play-offs for us, then whether we deem it to be successful or not will depend on the ultimate outcome, of promotion [to the Championship] or another League One Campaign.

Whilst it's slightly premature to be asking, can you sum up your season in a single sentence?

A season of great highs, winning against Manchester United 4-0 and some very low points like losing to Coventry and Chesterfield [three times], all in all though a season that gives us the confidence that the club continues to move in the right direction.

Many thanks to Franchise Don for his contribution.
Follow via Twitter @EMKAYdons18

Watch Out For Our Next Instalment

If you want to learn more about the perspectives offered by fans of Sheffield United, Peterborough United, Chesterfield, Fleetwood Town, Bradford City or even Doncaster Rovers, watch this space. Part two of this blog series should be live soon.

Thanks for reading. If you have any views on how you think the final league table might look, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch with us on Twitter and Facebook, or leave your comments on this post below.
What a difference a month has made. A resurgent Barnsley now sit in tenth spot in League One, only two points outside a coveted top six spot. Confidence is rising on and off the pitch and Barnsley's Head Coach is in no mood for compromise.

“We have to go out on Saturday and make sure we keep the hammer down," Johnson has stressed, in conversations this week with the media.

“We’ve had a good start and I thank the players for that, but we’ve got to continue to strive forward. We just have to make sure we keep going.”

Far from being complacent, there's a serious air of intent in those small soundbites. For the first time in several seasons, Reds fans can look forward to a battle for betterment rather than scrap for survival.

We look ahead to the closing campaign and ask, is a play-off place ours to lose?


Despite the defensive weaknesses that have affected the Reds, on an almost perennial basis, the recent lock-outs should be considered as a genuine signal that real change has finally happened. The first-eleven has started to have a  certain semblance of permanency about them. Whilst recent squads have not included Winnall and Ramage, both will undoubtedly return and have colossal part to play in terms of where Barnsley will finish.

After a less than convincing first attempt at the dawn of the season, Adam Davies has made a real claim for the number one jersey recently, in the absence of Turnbull. We can be happy that Waring has a passion for the shirt and remains at Oakwell until the end of the season, with the heirarchy also looking to replicate that sort of agreement too for Manchester United loanee Ben Pearson. Hourihane is showing glimpses of recapturing the imperious form and attitude which brought him so much praise, before the rumoured link with Doncaster in the last transfer window. And if anyone could, Mason Holgate is shaping up rapidly to to fill the void left by England international, John Stones at Barnsley Football Club.


Whilst complacency has to be guarded against, there's another less welcome quality that is worrying me more. Maybe the point I'm trying to make is summed up best in, Greavsie: The Autobiography by Jimmy Greaves who said, "An experienced pro very rarely has a bad game. He may have a game where his performance and contribution fall somewhat short of normal, but rarely will it be poor. Young players, on the other hand, are wildly inconsistent. They can be on fire in one game and anonymous in the next."

Whilst it's not inevitable that the final twelve fixtures will contain a substantial number of off-colour performances, it is reasonable to expect it will happen. When Preston North End and Sheffield United visit Oakwell, we will need to be at our very best. Away from home on those key trips to Bristol City, Oldham and Bradford City, can we expect every player to stand up and be counted?


The deal which saw Leroy Lita join Notts County on loan for the remainder of the season may prove to be one of Lee Johnson's earliest and potentially most prudent decision. Whilst Lita has undoubtedly proven his talents at the likes of Bristol City, Middlesbrough and Swansea City, his stay in South Yorkshire has largely been disappointing. After scoring in his first two league games, since 19 August a twenty-one game barren spell has ensued.

Perhaps one consideration may have been that a senior professional of his calibre, who may not have been enjoying his football, could have been a destabilising influence amongst the younger crop. Equally, with Sam Winnall looking like he may have recovered from his own injury nightmare and George Waring being the preferred partner up top, Lita could see the writing on the wall.

With a bit of financial freedom that the Lita deal creates, Johnson might have a bit of room to shake the dice once more and identify one or two faces to help us get over the line.

[UPDATE] Lee Johnson has snapped up two players today, Friday 6 March. Cardiff City’s teenage left-back Declan John and experienced Colchester United striker Jabo Ibehre, both on loan for the remainder of the season.


The atmosphere and noise at Oakwell has been muted of late. That's understandable. It's not necessarily a nervousness amongst supporters, it's been more like a communal apathy that swept in and like a bad case of flu, it's been bloody hard to shift. With six games on home soil, including the potential pivotal meeting against Keith Hill's Rochdale on the final day, it's important that the Ponty End is rocking and that all supporters generate the noise to lift performances on the pitch.

Results, even potential losses against relegation threatened clubs like Leyton Orient, Colchester or Notts County won't determine the outcome. You don't have to look too far back to remember how we won on the road at Charlton Athletic last season, only to realise that our survival was not resolved as a result of that ecstatic trip. We can afford to lose and still achieve our goals. It may be that defeat comes from the most unexpected places. But let's keep the faith. Let's not waiver.

Come on Barnsley fans. Do you think a play-off place is still a realistic proposition given our inconsistencies over the season? Or, maybe you think we've done enough already to consolidate our position and look forward to another tilt at League One next season? Wade into this discussion now, we would love to hear your views. Get in touch with us on Twitter and Facebook, or leave your comments on this post below.

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"He has extensive knowledge of the players throughout the divisions, has done a lot of scouting, of course he's had a good career as well. He's a technically good coach. He's got that change of tempo in his voice in training sessions, he can demand that Scottish aggression if you like, that's on the verge of being over the top, but it demands that players raise the tempo"

- Lee Johnson heaps praise on his new assistant Tommy Wright, Oakwell, 25 February 2015

It was an introduction like no other. In just a few short sentences, Barnsley's new Head Coach provided his own personal insight on his friend and colleague. As a preface, many Reds supporters would be left drooling with excitement, whilst the current crop of players learned that there's more than one new face that they will have to please.


Thomas Elliott (Tommy) Wright, also referred to jokingly as Tommy Johnson, by Barnsley's new head coach, was spotted by Leeds United's senior Scottish scout as a 16 year old, moving to Elland Road in 1982, breaking in to the senior squad alongside the likes of John Sheridan, Denis Irwin, Scott Sellars and Neil Aspin under manager Eddie Gray.

In a playing career that spanned 18 years, the goal scoring winger racked up 455 senior appearances, finding the net on 86 occasions, working under the likes of Joe Royle and David Pleat. It was a journey through a number of destinations including Oldham Athletic, Leicester City, Middlebrough, Bradford City, St. Johnstone and Livingstone, before retirement finally beckoned after a stint at Doncaster Rovers.

Wright was working with the Under 16s at the Latics in 2006 when his old Leeds United colleague John Sheridan asked him to step up as his assistant.

"I always said that if I went into management I would take him with me," Sheridan told the club website. "Tommy has a terrific record at bringing young players through this club and, like myself, is very excited about the future."

And when Sheridan joined Chesterfield in June 2009, it was to his trusty sidekick he turned once more to support him in mounting a promotion challenge. A success they achieved together in 2010/11 as Champions of League 2.

Wright had a brief spell as caretaker boss of the Spireites, before leaving in April 2013 and returning to Oldham as assistant manager, nearly five years after leaving the League One club.

“I knew Lee Johnson, as he played under us at Chesterfield on loan there. I saw him at a reserve game and we had a chat. A few days ago he asked if I would be interested. I was desperate to get back in on the coaching side, so I didn’t have any second thoughts.”

What makes him tick?

Naturally time will tell. However, we found an audio file on SoundCloud from just under two years ago. In this interview with the Chesterfield Post, Wright comes across as being refreshingly honest and a very likeable character. There's certainly no hint of a 'HillCroft' (Guardiola Complex) ego at work here.

It's certainly recommended listening for all those Oakwell Anoraks out there.


On a final note

Could Tommy Wright have inadvertently been singing the praises of Lee Johnson in return when he made the following remarks?

"I think, over the last four or five years, I've really studied, I've worked extremely hard - obviously you have to get your coaching badges - but in other ways such as watching DVDs and reading books. 

"The best coaches now are probably the best educated coaches, not necessarily the best as players in their careers but they are the best educated."

What do you think readers? Has the new duo on the block inspired your confidence in the future at our beloved Barnsley Football Club? We would love to hear your opinions. Get in touch with us on Twitter or Facebook, or leave your comments on this post below.
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The cat is finally out of the bag. Following thirteen days since the departure of Danny Wilson, which included seemingly endless hours of  debate, speculation and rumours, Barnsley Football Club have identified their brand new 'Head Coach'.

On The Ponty End extends a huge welcome Lee Johnson to Oakwell and wish him every success in his role at the Reds, in the immediate future and beyond.

Whilst every appointment is likely to stir a range of emotions an opinions amongst supporters, I am convinced that a brighter future awaits us under the stewardship of Johnson. The former Oldham Athletic Manager has developed an enviable reputation as one the games brightest young bosses - in just under two years at 'the other side of the big hill'.

He has been tested often. His successes have shone through.

Managerial Record

In 103 games in charge at Boundary Park, Johnson has won 36, drawn 32 and lost 35 proving a win percentage of 34.95%. His first game in charge was a 3–0 victory against Hartlepool United on 19 March, which lifted Oldham out of the relegation zone, before eventually guiding them to survival.


Following his short introduction to the hotseat at Boundary Park, a total of eighteen players were out of contract before the start of the 2013/14 season. Adding to this, financial constraints have been par for the course, at a time when investment has also gone in to the demolition of the old Broadway Stand to make way for their new North Stand.

Operating in this environment, Johnson has proven to be a shrewd operator. Often emulating some of the better qualities Keith Hill had in fixing broken toys and getting a bargain. There are many examples, but most Reds fans cannot fail to have seen the performances of Genséric Kusunga and George Elokobi in our recent encounters with OAFC.

Media Scrutiny

After the whole sorry 'Ched Evans' saga at Oldham Athletic, few people who could have exited this drama with any credit. Lee Johnson was one individual who did.

Against a back drop of threats against staff, sponsors threatening to pull their support and with the media remained camped outside Boundary Park, politicians also took a stance, including the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Opposition Leader. 70,000 people signed an online petition. It was a period of intense scrutiny, more than that experienced by some of highest profile Premier League Managers. Johnson calmly and respectfully took it in his stride.


As one of the few gaffers in the football league with an active Twitter account, Lee Johnson will have to get used to the banter and direct feedback he will get from the Barnsley faithful. But it's also clear from this community how highly he is regarded.


Whilst most players would take international breaks as a chance to enjoy relaxation on the beach, Johnson would travel across the continent, observing training sessions at some of Europe's top clubs.

Perhaps one of the most famous tales relates to his interview at Oldham (arranged for him by an admiring Kenny Dalglish), where an eager Johnson arrived armed with reports on the club's last three matches. All had been attended unannounced and undercover. This level of detail had obviously inflated his credentials with the Latics board and signalled the death knell to the hopes of other 'established' candidates.

Johnson is ready. No doubt he will have observed his new charges many times before. At Glanford Park, the planning for Saturday against Gillingham will have already been in motion. The new Reds boss will have done his homework.  While the mathematics still support a push for the play-offs, that will be the immediate goal.

As fans, let's get behind this appointment. In Lee Johnson we trust. We would love to hear your views. Get in touch with us on Twitter or Facebook, or leave your comments on this post below.
There's been a fantastic response over the last few days to our recent post, Why Barnsley FC are not set up for success, by Michael Roache. Whether you agree with any or all of his points, it has certainly been an article that has resonated with a number of supporters, especially in the comments they have left on the site and other feedback within the twittersphere.

Stepping into debate is John Meara, a regular reader and friend of OnThePontyEnd. If you're listening Mr Cryne, Mr Mansford et al, here's John's view on the eight essential qualities he feels that any owner / custodian of Barnsley Football Club should bring to the role.


There can only be one winner of any competition, but to hold our own in the Championship like we used to would be a fantastic achievement. More likely, holding our own in Division 1 has to be the short term priority. Sell this aim to the fans.


Being realistic means being honest with the fanbase. If the aim is consolidation in Division 1 then say so. Being honest also means not selling your best player the day after the deadline for season ticket renewals (Craig Hignett).


In order to build pride in the Club the team has to be competitive. This does not mean winning every game but it does mean getting 1.5 points per game over the course of a season.


In my experience, players like Ronnie Glavin or Neil Redfearn only come round every 15 years or so. Stop wasting money on ageing professionals and spend the money on developing the talent which is out there. Recruit locally. Accept that this strategy will mean selling good prospects from time to time. Celebrate their success.


Clubs want season ticket sales. This means playing well at home and winning most of your home games.


Aim to sell most tickets at home and price matches accordingly. Create an atmosphere.


Employing a new manager every 12 months does not work. Find the right person to deliver the strategy and stick by them.


Sell this vision. Employ people who can effectively represent the Club in the community. Give meaningful press conferences - not the same old cliches.

What do you think readers? Do you agree with John or would you add further qualities to this list?We would love to hear your views. Get in touch with us on Twitter or Facebook, or leave your comments on this post below.
I think that the sentiments of many Barnsley fans, who learned the fate of Danny Wilson on Thursday, were perfectly echoed by a question from Radio Sheffield’s Andy Giddings, to Oakwell Chief Executive Ben Mansford, in his interview following the departure.

“I suppose though, if you had a long term plan… this is, what, February? It only started really in the summer though… I mean has he [Danny Wilson] been given enough time to build that long term plan?”

To which Ben Mansford gave the short reply “Well we feel it has Andy, yeah”.

This blog post does not aim to debate this individual sacking based on performances, but aims to argue that Barnsley’s complete business strategy does not set the club up for success.

Those that know me will be aware that for the first time in six years, I have actually been unable to comment on the on-pitch proceedings at Oakwell given my move to the U.S.A. right before the start of the season. But regardless of the fact that I haven’t been able to get to Oakwell, I can say that ironically, this sacking has been coming since long before Wilson was ever appointed, and could be traced back to Mark Robins’ departure in 2011, or even further back than then.

As was stated earlier in this post, the whole thing boils down to business strategy.

I choose the point of Mark Robins’ departure as the inception point for a particular reason. It was the point at which, probably for the first time, the club’s leadership expressed the need to ‘run the club as a business'. I am not here to debate whether this is or isn’t the right thing, as since I’m a ’94 baby, I know nothing else but the money-driven premier league era which forever consigned the working class professional footballer to the history books. But what I am here to debate, is that if this is the way in which the board at the time (and consequently the current one) wished to proceed, then they have done so in the wrong manner.

A business strategy in layman’s terms is the means by which a business sets out to achieve its end objectives, and a typical high level strategy statement will go something like this: “We want to grow into a £x million revenue company by 2018, by selling to an x% bigger market share, growing organically by x% a year”. Business strategy exists in both the long and short term, and my main concern with Barnsley FC, is that it doesn’t, and never has had a long term business strategy in mind, and at most, the board thinks in 6 month to possibly 2 year periods at a time, and in the majority of cases, even the 2 year plan is not seen through, as told by the numerous managerial and playing staff departures. Don’t get me wrong, I do think that since the inception point I referred to, there have been the beginnings of an improved and more forward thinking strategy, but the execution has been severely lacking, and some of the goals have become somewhat convoluted, particularly since the appointment of Ben Mansford, and our relegation to League 1.

Our strategy, which was reflected in the appointment of successful Rochdale manager Keith Hill, was to develop youth, bring in players who had somewhat lost their way, and develop them alongside some more seasoned professionals, all in the name of making the club self-sufficient without the need for our benefactor Patrick Cryne.

Off the back of what had just been achieved at Rochdale, Hill was evidently the right man for the job. For the first half of the season the strategy was going swimmingly, but of course the turning point came, when quicker than a flash the arguably three best players were all gone in an instant. Whilst much has already been said on the Ricardo Vaz Te deal, the details are not so much as important as the overriding principle which should have followed regardless of whether he stayed or was sold - the manager needed backing. Keith had been trusted to implement a strategy, and did so with aplomb within his remit. One of the basic business mistakes was to pull the carpet from under Hill within an instant. Of course the end goal was to break even and be profitable within the longer term, but to expect that within one season, whilst also expecting the team to perform on the pitch is completely ludicrous, even in BUSINESS terms.

You don’t have to be Richard Branson or Alan Sugar to know that businesses are not expected to turn a profit and be successful instantly, and  in fact such characters will often be the first to tell you about how much investment they had to put in before they ever saw a return. Investing for the long term is in the very nature of business, and is basically why there are such things as venture capital and business finance firms. In short, the strategy in the long term, was only ever going to work if the right decision was made in the short term - the decision being to back the manager financially.

Let’s not forget that this was Keith Hill we were talking about, a man who wouldn’t have taken the kid in the candy store approach, but someone who would have made solid investments to deliver his long term and short term goals. Although in the catastrophic 12 months at the end of Keith Hill’s tenure, his tactics, team selections and media pieces became increasingly wild  beyond the point being tolerable from an already eccentric character, I think it is safe to say that they were purely driven by increasing desperation at the situation which was well out of his hands - a situation that had only worsened in the summer, as evidenced by the kinds of player brought in, despite the fact that the club made a small profit in no time at all.

As Keith Hill’s departure was confirmed, the long term strategy was temporarily put on hold, and rightly so, the club went to crisis management mode. I don’t need to tell anyone that fixing a small chip in a car windshield is much easier and far more cost effective than replacing the entire thing once it’s broken beyond repair (Autoglass already did that). Well the same applies to business. In not backing Keith at the right moment, the club created a far more difficult and expensive situation than a wage hike for Ricardo Vaz Te, or investment in a proper replacement would have ever cost. Luckily, the crisis management worked, and between David Flitcroft’s miracle work and Patrick Cryne agreeing to give some maneuvering room in the budget, the club survived.

Whilst you can excuse any business, in our case our football club, from going into crisis management mode, the key thing at the end of the crisis is to return to the strategy that was originally put in place, whilst learning from our mistakes and tweaking it to suit our current environment. The John Stones money was prime for implementing said strategy. The investments could go into developing our own players, and naturally some of this had to go into the academy. Instead, the money was wasted on team buses, and giving contracts to players who were of rotation quality at best, only for the majority of them to be out in the cold for the majority of the season. Despite promises of the likes of Reuben Noble-Lazarus and Danny Rose getting around 30-40 games apiece, they failed to muster even 20 between them.

From what had started as a fantastic, sensible, and at first successful strategy under Keith Hill - all that was remaining was words, and the strategy was tossed further and further aside as the season elapsed. Our academy graduates were not being developed, and as time went by, even our ‘broken toys’ were thrown well and truly out of the pram in favour of ‘experience’, and thus we had returned full circle to the situation which led to Mark Robins’ departure in the first place, where players who didn’t give a rat’s ass about Barnsley were paid ludicrous sums to ‘play’ football.

Summer came by, and the messages of rebuilding and looking toward a long term strategy, using our own players and developing others in return for a profit, could not have been more encouraging. Signings such as Conor Hourihane and Sam Winnall reminded me a great deal of the signings of Craig Davies and Scott Golbourne in the past. Players who’d done something of note at a lower level, and had plenty to offer in terms of potential. These types of player, combined with the likes of our academy graduates and a couple of classic ‘broken toys’ could have certainly brought success. That is not to say instantaneous success, but a decent start to a long term plan.

Here is the kicker in what was being said over summer, and in what is being said now in the aftermath of Wilson’s departure. All of this was expected as part of a long term plan, yet we were expected to go back to the Championship as soon as possible, which given numerous interviews from players and former staff alike stating that the play-offs were still within reach, was likely expected as being within this year.

As I premised this post, whilst I cannot comment on anything after the Coventry away game in terms of on-pitch performance, all I can ask is how was the manager expected to play a berth of youngsters, whilst still aiming to get promoted? That said, if the aim of developing OUR OWN talent was part of the manager’s remit, then why have we discarded the likes of Noble-Lazarus and Rose on free transfer deals without giving them so much as a sniff, whilst bringing in other clubs’ youngsters who we won’t see past this season?

As evidenced by the sheer number of players used this season, and the fact that the playing budget is allegedly one of the highest in the division, the strategy has become completely convoluted, and the lack of cohesion is why Danny Wilson left the football club, whether by his own fault or not. As I’ve said, the aim was to get promoted by trying to develop our own players and deliver return on investment.

The two things are completely contradictory strategies. The board was expecting harmony between things which were mutually exclusive. That is to say that, yes there are several ways of getting promoted, one of which is to spend money and go gung-ho trying to get out of the division, as worked for Sheffield Wednesday (albeit not straight away), or try to build something long term with our own youngsters, thus saving a bit of money and becoming profitable in the process. What you can’t expect is to throw some half-hearted mash-up between money and youngsters into the fray, and expect it to produce the instantaneous results that we wanted - whilst turning a profit.

What I’m saying here is that whether we need greater investment or not is almost irrelevant. Yes of course you need the investment to sustain even the youngsters and the more ‘organic’ growth model, which was evidenced by the downfall of Keith Hill - but that is one strategy. If the goal was an instant return, then a far greater level of investment was needed - or at least in different areas of the squad. Of course, you can argue Wilson might have done better with the tools at his disposal, as I’m sure many will. However, the club was not set up to succeed in the first place.

I am not claiming to have all the answers here. And actually in terms of business, football is incredibly demanding, given that in one business cycle (a season), failure can start a big downward spiral, given that if you get relegated, the fall in revenue makes what you’re trying to achieve even harder. However, what I am saying is that the club needed to choose a clear and achievable strategy, and go for either the long game or short game (of which success is guaranteed by either choice), and then stick to it.  Even if the long term strategy is taken, the short term decisions support the longer term goal.

And so when we came to Thursday, when Ben Mansford said in his interview that Danny Wilson had gone for ‘business reasons’, I was absolutely flabbergasted, regardless of my largely irrelevant opinion on how much his tactics, team selections and performances had influenced his departure. The ‘business reasons’ stated are clear in the club statement for all to see, stating how we have a large budget, fan base, and whatever else. Whilst that is all perfectly well and good - did Danny go because he had failed to deliver what was looking like an instant push for promotion, or because he’d failed to put into place the seeds for a long term plan? If the answer was both, then what manager can deliver said outcomes?

Even more astounding is that, whilst Mr Mansford rather admirably said that the board doesn’t speak to potential managers whilst the incumbent is in office, the board seems to have failed to even drawn up a shortlist, or be clear and vocal about the success criteria and STRATEGY that the manager will have to follow, and the qualities that would be needed to deliver such.

Do not be fooled. This kind of thing does not need to be kept under wraps. If the board has a long term strategy, then they would know exactly the kind of manager they would be looking for, and should be vocal in those requirements, without naming names. What the majority of this boils down to is that I feel this board does not have either the ability nor bravery to set their stall out on a strategy and see it through. Regardless of the fact that my personal opinion thinks that we should go for the long term sustainable option, because I grew sick of careless journeymen ruining our football club long ago; the board needs to choose one of the two strategies (clearly the one they feel that is most attainable) and stick to it. I honestly think that Barnsley fans would buy into either the expensive route or the sustainable route, but this strategy needs to be clearly communicated, and be the centre of everything Barnsley FC does. At that point, I think that the club will have the supporter backing it needs, even in hard times, and will be set up for success.

As a last musing, one thing I think that Ben Mansford needs to be particularly careful of is his use of the word ‘business’ and it’s related terms such as ‘return on investment’. These things have to be lived by in the strategy. And if delivering return on investment is a key outcome, then this has to be upheld by all, including himself. His largely unknown remit will ultimately come down being able to bring revenues and profits to the club, but if he is unable to follow a strategy for longer than seven months, then he may find his own stock and ‘return on investment’ will be questioned.

As Chief Executive, Ben Mansford's job is to define a realistic strategy, but also to act unrelentingly to ensure that it is implemented correctly.

I will actually sanction a sacking if a realistic strategy is not followed, but since that has not happened at Oakwell in a long time, I struggle to see where any manager would have done better, as the stat that says we make a manageral change on an almost annual basis clearly shows.

I hope that this blog has brought a bit of perspective to the whole situation, and would love to gain your opinions in the comments below, or via my Twitter @MichaelRoach55. Please give this post a share, and let me know what you think.

Sending my regards from a blisteringly cold Chicago - thanks for reading!

Barnsley will travel to Doncaster on Saturday afternoon hoping to kick on as the season approaches a busy fixtures period, and the South Yorkshire club will be hoping to regain some much-needed form in a local derby.

The Tykes manager, Danny Wilson, will be quietly confident that his side can gain maximum points at the Keepmoat Stadium, a result that could improve this seasons possible play-off hopes.

Wilson’s side are currently sat in 16th position in League One following last year’s relegation from the Championship, but the instant return to the second tier looks far from likely at the moment, after recent poor showings domestically.

Despite having top players like, Ross Turnbull, Leroy Lita, Kane Hemmings and Dale Jennings at his disposal this campaign, Wilson has so far failed to get them firing on all cylinders so far this term.

Jennings and Turnbull were squad players at Chelsea and Bayern Munich once upon a time, so the Tykes’ faithful will be hopeful that both can contribute towards them picking up some vital points early in the New Year before they fall too far behind.

Championship chance

Although Barnsley have had an indifferent beginning to their life in League One, all is not lost as the club currently sit only seven points off the play-off positions, giving slight hope to their promotion bid.

With the top three sides, Swindon Town, Bristol City and MK Dons over 20 points ahead at the moment at the league's summit, a return to the Championship through the automatic promotion places looks virtually impossible for Wilson and his struggling side.

However, the play-off system certainly gives Barnsley a chance at an instant return to the division, and at 27/10 odds with Betsafe to topple Doncaster, they are perhaps worth a punt in their latest outing as they near a winnable set of games in the fixture list.

The two sides met at Oakwell just a month ago and played out a 1-1 draw with goals coming from Lewin Nyatanga and Theo Robinson. It was a third consecutive meeting that ended in stalemate between the Yorkshire pair.

Last time out at the Keepmoat was last season’s 2-2 draw in the Championship, with James Coppinger’s brace overturning Nick Proschwitz’s opener before the on-loan German equalised in the last minute.

Rovers have won 14 of the 33 meetings between the two sides in Doncaster with Barnsley victorious in nine of the encounters. Rovers’ biggest recent home win over the Reds came a decade ago with a 4-0 triumph in League One with goals from Gregg Blundell, John Doolan and Paul Green.