Barnsley aim for survival after rebuild - Interview
Monday, 25th Sep 2017 22:14 by Clive Whittingham
A talent drain like few others has left Barnsley requiring a whole new team - Baz the Oakwell regular assesses how successful that rebuild has been for 2017/18.
How would you assess last season?
Baz: Finishing fourteenth has to be regarded as a success, considering we were strongly tipped for relegation having only been promoted the season before. However, I think most fans were pretty frustrated by the end, feeling that we could have finished much higher up the table had we not lost Mawson, Hourihane, Bree and Winall during the course of the season. We played some great counter-attacking football at times but faded away in the final few months.
Nine of the starting 11 from our meeting a year ago are no longer with you, is that sort of talent drain demoralising or just part of how the club operates?
Baz: It is of course demoralising, and very strange to start a season where you know very few of your players. There is very little the club can do about it when you're at the bottom of the Championship food chain and I think most fans realise that. We don't even seem to be able to keep hold of players who are only slightly above average eg. Marley Watkins/ Marc Roberts, which I find particularly frustrating.
Tell us about some of the replacements the club has brought in and how they’re doing?
Baz: Still early days so we're still getting used to many of these players and it's been a steep learning curve for many of them. I've been impressed with Joe Williams, on loan from Everton, who has been playing as a defensive midfielder and has looked comfortable in that role for the most part. Midfielders Brad Potts and Harvey Barnes (on loan from Leicester) have been very inconsistent and at times have looked out of their depth but there's certainly been no lack of effort and that has meant despite the inexperience of many of our new players we have at least been competitive in most of the games so far.
Baz: Following Saturday's loss at Wolves and our current league position, 21st, I would have to say poorly. Following an opening day hammering at Bristol City, we have been playing one up front and five in midfield to give the defence some protection but as a result we have struggled to score goals and are still conceding too many. Our defence is very inexperienced at this level and it shows. We do have a few defenders out injured at the moment so hopefully once they're back things will improve.
The chairman’s health problems made headlines last week, but I gather there’s a takeover in the offing involving some China money and Moneyball’s Billy Beane – what’s the latest on all of that? Excitement or scepticism locally?
Baz: Patrick Cryne made a very emotional entry in the matchday programme a few weeks ago suggesting that he may not have long to live, which is obviously very sad. Clearly this has led to him urgently seeking out potential buyers which I think has resulted in the China/Billy Beane interest. I would say there is probably more excitement than scepticism at the moment although most football fans are well aware that these type of takeovers can end up going spectacularly badly for all concerned. From what I understand it is still very much likely to go ahead although I do worry whether our tumbling league position may put them off. Any investment has to be welcomed, particularly as we are relative paupers in this division. Cryne has hinted recently that the club has been using a data driven "Moneyball" approach to player recruitment over the past couple of years so from that point of view it would be a good fit.
Baz: Winger Adam Hammill has been our best player by some distance and is back to the form he showed during our League 1 promotion season. Tom Bradshaw has also managed to score five goals despite having very little service. The defence has been poor for most of the season, particularly the full backs
Baz: For this season, the goal has to be avoiding relegation, which may be a tall order. The medium and long term very much depend on if we can keep Paul Heckingbottom, who I think is an excellent manager, and whether or not the rumoured takeover happens. If we can get some much-needed investment, then at the very least a few years of solid mid table finishes should be achievable, eventually aiming for a shot at the play offs.
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