September 2017

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.