April 2018
It's the 2016/17 season. Barnsley FC currently sit 7th in the Championship with the club looking towards the Premier League. Barnsley born and bred Patrick Cryne was desperately assuring fans that our key players won’t be sold. Hourihane signs for Villa, Winnall signs for SWFC and James Bree also signs for the Villains, leaving the Reds with a core of Barnsley men at the helm, Owner Cryne, Boss Paul Heckingbottom and Captain Marc Roberts.

Fast forward six months and it’s the summer, ‘Robbo’ signs for Birmingham City, despite further assurances to fans that our key players won’t be sold. The Reds’ squad is down to it’s bare bones, relying on the ‘spreadsheet’ formula to build a squad for the Championship. Ironically, in the league where we belong, statistically speaking.

Let’s talk about the spreadsheet, the transfer strategy inspired by Billy Beane's 'Moneyball' vision.

In the case of the Reds, the player in question must have value. Let’s take Brad Potts for example; the player must A) represent good value for money considering our financial situation during the Cryne led era, in other words the player must not cost too much. B) the player in question must have resale value, we sign a player for £250,000 and then sell them for £1,000,000.

There are many flaws though however with the second part of this. To make a team that is good enough to challenge, you have to have a certain level of consistency. If you are only signing players simply to sell them on later, then categorically you have no chance of ever gaining consistency and ongoing improvement.

You can say whatever you want about the spreadsheet; you cannot argue that statistically speaking each of our signings have looked excellent on paper, but are there any other critical judgements being made that will support an individual signing's transition and evolution to actually improving the team?


Any good side has characters within it. A clear number of leaders within a dressing room. With a team that has been built off of a spreadsheet, what do you see? What do I see? No leaders. Four captains in a single year. What does that tell you about the spreadsheet formula in terms of leaders?

You can teach a man Maths, History, Biology, but you can’t teach him personality, strength to be who they are and to be a leader. You look at all the great sides over the years in this league, the Wolves team this year they have; Conor Coady, Willy Boly and Ruben Névés, and that’s just one team as an example.

Another thing that spreadsheet doesn’t cover is what type of player are they? Strong, weak, a flair player? A team player, a selfish one at that.

The 'Moneyball' strategy focusses on individual statistics. But where is the vision and identity beyond this? What are the missing factors that will make Barnsley FC a better football team?