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Quick start key to Barnsley's summer salvation - Interview
Wednesday, 17th Jun 2020 09:43 by Clive Whittingham

Ahead of the Championship’s return on Saturday, we spoke to Barnsley fans @josephbeardsall and @BFC_Luke about the Tykes’ season so far and how they survive from seven points adrift with nine games left to play.

Why have Barnsley struggled so much on return to the Championship?

JB: In my opinion we’ve struggled in the Championship because we sold our two centre backs Liam Lindsay and Ethan Pinnock who were vital in our promotion season last year. Any team coming up needs a solid partnership at the back but it’s taken time for our new lads to click hence why we’ve struggled so much but things had started to improve pre-lockdown.

Luke: I knew in July that we'd struggle. The problem with Barnsley is their nature to sell too many of their better players at the wrong time. The last time we were relegated we had lost half of our best 11 in the space of six months and signed about 16 new players in the summer. You would have thought that the people in charge would have figured out that it's not the best way to start a season. So when we sold one of our best centre halves early on in the window alarm bells were ringing. I could handle losing one of our centre halves, but when we then sold our other and best centre half later on in the window I instantly knew that it would be our downfall. It's near impossible to bring two new first team centre halves into a squad with less than a month to the season and expect them to do well. Particularly when Barnsley's model is to sign them young before they are at their best.

The Daniel Stendel sacking looked rather abrupt and harsh to an outsider, what’s the story there and did you agree with it?

JB: The vast majority of reds fans didn’t agree with Stendel’s sacking after all he had done an incredible job getting us back to the Championship and he was a massively popular figure at Oakwell. In the weeks up to his sacking he complained about having a lack of experience so that combined with poor results in my view is why those at the top decided it was time for him to go. I think he deserved more time and he had a valid point on not having enough experienced players but I don’t like to be overly critical of decisions like this because we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors or all the facts about the situation. If Gerhard Struber keeps us up it was the right call and if he doesn’t then I guess we will never know.

Luke: At the time it definitely looked bad. They sold his best players and sacked him when things weren't going well based on the decisions that they had made. It later came out that he was apparently trying to get a move to another Championship club under the noses of the owners which makes his dismissal seem fairer. That being said though, I think I would have done the same if all my best players had been sold.

You looked dead and buried when the change of manager came, but there has been a rally of sorts since then, so what has Gerhard Struber changed?

JB: Gerhard Struber is a very strong character. He might not be as likeable as Stendel in some fans eyes but he expects the best and his standards are high. He backs himself and the team to get out of this mess which I respect but he has walked into an extremely difficult challenge. He’s made the team more resilient and worked on cutting out errors at the back but he’s working with a very young set of talented players and like all young players they’re going to make mistakes. Unfortunately the Championship is ruthless and those mistakes have been punished far too often this season.

Luke: Well, having a manager who wanted to be here was a nice start. Struber brought a slightly different system and play style but nothing too dramatic so that the players couldn't get used to it. The main difference has come in having more of a settled side and finding a formula that we could try to stick with. Stendel seemed unsure on his best team and swapped and changed systems too often. Strangely though, he gave too much trust to some players who weren't performing well which seemed to shatter their confidence and didn't give chances to others who probably deserved one. So I would say that Struber’s freshness lifted the team and he found a method so that we were more consistent and stable in the way we played. Also, the club actually signed an experienced defender which probably helped us win three on the bounce.

Barnsley league results so far…
Barnsley 1-0 Fulham Thomas 13
Sheff Wed 2-0 Barnsley Murphy 2, Fletcher 60
Barnsley 2-2 Charlton Woodrow 34, Chaplin 48 – Gallagher 80, Taylor pen 89
Birmingham 2-0 Barnsley Jutkiewicz 69, Alvaro 77
Barnsley 1-3 Luton Wilks 72 – Butterfield 2, Collins 4, Cornick 31
Wigan 0-0 Barnsley
Barnsley 0-2 Leeds Nketiah 84, Klich pen 89
Forest 1-0 Barnsley Watson 56
Barnsley 1-3 Brentford Woodrow 1 – Watkins 35, 46, 68
Barnsley 2-2 Derby Halme 13, Woodrow 90 – Martin 34, Huddlestone pen 43
Preston 5-1 Barnsley Johnson 31, 61, Barkhuizen 50, Pearson 63, Harrop 77 – McGeehan 43
Barnsley 1-1 Swansea Mowatt 70 – Ayew 67
West Brom 2-2 Barnsley Diaby og 68, Pereira 81 – Woodrow 18, 24
Huddersfield 2-1 Barnsley Schindler 30, Grant 53 – Brown 79
Barnsley 2-2 Bristol City Halme 77, Woodrow 90 – Williams 43, Weimann 71
Barnsley 2-4 Stoke McGeehan 42, Schmidt 82 – Clucas 8, 67, Gregory pen 30, Allen 64
Blackburn 3-2 Barnsley Dack 24, 86, Downing 69 – Chaplin 48, Woodrow 82
Middlesbrough 1-0 Barnsley Fletcher 54
Barnsley 3-1 Hull Mowatt 23, Bahre 75, Chaplin 90 – Lewis-Potter 81
Cardiff 3-2 Barnsley Flint 20, Ward 68, Tomlin 90 – Chaplin 17, Peltier og 48
Barnsley 1-1 Reading Woodrow 58 – Joao 76
Barnsley 5-3 QPR Chaplin 7, 18, 52, Woodrow pen 60, Diaby 82 – Amos 12, 54, Chair 90
Millwall 1-2 Barnsley O’Brien 83 – Chaplin 39, Schmidt 90
Barnsley 1-1 West Brom Halme 90 – Krovinovic 5
Swansea 0-0 Barnsley
Derby 2-1 Barnsley Marriott 45, Waghorn 57 – Simoes 50
Barnsley 2-1 Huddersfield Mowatt 14, Chaplin 65 – O’Brien 66
Bristol City 1-0 Barnsley Eliasson 87
Barnsley 0-3 Preston Barkhuizen 19, 45, Johnson 34
Charlton 2-1 Barnsley Taylor 9, Green 45 – Woodrow 71
Barnsley 1-1 Sheff Wed Woodrow 24 – Windass 16
Barnsley 0-1 Birmingham Hogan 76
Fulham 0-3 Barnsley Woodrow pen 24, 79, Brown 51
Barnsley 1-0 Middlesbrough Chaplin 73
Hull 0-1 Barnsley Woodrow 42
Reading 2-0 Barnsley Meite 17, Puskas 60
Barnsley 0-2 Cardiff Vaulks 65, Paterson 66

Would you keep him on for next season, even if you go down?

JB: Some fans might disagree but yes I’d keep him. It’s not his fault that we’re looking likely to be relegated and I think with more time and a bit more recruitment he’d lead us to promotion next season if we do go down. Would he want to stay is another question, he’s a man with big ambitions but in my view the best way to prove you’re a good manager after a relegation is to bounce back with a promotion on your CV.

Luke: Yes probably, I didn't give him much of a chance of keeping us up when he came in so he wouldn't deserve sacking if we went down. We have been unfortunate in that since he's come in, whenever we have put together some good results the other teams at the bottom have also picked up points too.

Three wins in a row through February, including that shock 3-0 at Fulham, but now two defeats without scoring, why has that momentum faded? How are you playing coming into this week’s game?

JB: Yes those three wins did feel rather amazing considering our disappointing season overall but the reason we followed that up with two defeats is just it’s hard to be consistently great all the time. I think our lads run out of steam against Reading after three good wins and then Cardiff bullied us and just knew how to get under our skin and walk away with the points.

Luke: I'm going to be honest, I'm trying to rack my brain to remember the games as it's been that long. I think that the Reading loss was off the back of playing three games in a week which we tend to struggle with as we have a small squad. We had a real chance to close the gap if we had beat Reading too which we wasted. It seems strange to say that after winning three on the bounce, but we needed to win those to give ourselves a chance again. Typically, two games later we found ourselves almost out of reach again.

Any indication what sort of shape and form you’re coming out of lockdown in? Any friendlies or injury news to give an indication?

JB: I think we will come into this game full of energy and enthusiasm but it’s hard to say after such a weird period off what form we will be in. The simple fact is we need to win most of our games so I’m sure the team will give it everything. We beat Sheffield United in a friendly but you can’t read anything into that really and I think injury wise we’re all good.

Luke: I have no idea to be honest. I think Woodrow had a little knock before lockdown so it will be good to have him fully fit as he's going to be key for us if we are going to stay up somehow. We did beat Sheffield United 2-0 in a friendly a few days ago but I have no idea on the line ups so who knows if it was a good result or not. I genuinely think we will perform better and pick up more results in the last nine games. I just don't think that it will be enough.

Player of the season candidates?

JB: I think our player of the season would have to be either Alex Mowatt for the way he’s lead by example in midfield and really stepped up into a leadership role or Cauley Woodrow for his goal contribution. Full back Clarke Oduor is also one of my favourites as well, he’s so talented and composed on the ball for a young player and certainly has a big future ahead.

Luke: I would say that Alex Mowatt has been our man of the match in 90 percent of the games we've played. You can see he's head and shoulders above anyone else in our team apart from Cauley Woodrow who is by far and away our best asset because of his goals. Chaplin and Browny have also been very good for us this season in relation to how we have done but I would say we have been carried by Mowatt and Woodrow.

Summer Ins: Luke Thomas, 20, RW, Derby, £1.2m >>> Patrick Schmidt, 21, CF, Admira Wacker, £1m >>> Malik Wilks, 20, LW, Leeds, £900k >>> Mads Juel Anderson, 21, CB, Horsens (Denmark), £900k >>> Aapo Halme, 21, CB, Leeds, £200k >>> Toby Sibbick, 20, RB, Wimbledon, £200k >>> Mike Bahre, 23, AM, Hannover, £135k >>> Brad Collins, 22, GK, Chelsea, Free >>> Samuel Sahin-Radlinger, 26, GK, Hannover, Free >>> Conor Chaplin, 22, CF, Coventry, Undisclosed >>> Bambo Diaby, 21, CB, Lokeren (Belgium), Undisclosed >>> Clarke Oduor, 20, LB, Leeds, Undisclosed

Summer Outs: Ethan Pinnock, 26, CB, Brentford, £3m >>> Kieffer Moore, 26, CF, Wigan, £2.6m >>> Liam Lindsay, 23, CB, Stoke, £2m >>> Adam Davies, 26, GK, Stoke, Free >>> Victor Adeboyego, 21, CF, Bristol Rovers, Loan >>> Ryan Hedges 23, RW, Aberdeen, Free >>> Adam Jackson, 25, CB, Hibs, Free >>> Zeki Fryers, 26, LB, Swindon, Free >>> Lloyd Isgrove, 26, LW, Released >>> George Miller, 21, CF, Scunthorpe, Loan

Winter Ins: >>> Michael Sollbauer, 29, CB, Wolfsberger (Austria), £450k (joint fee) >>> Marcel Ritzmaier, 26, CM, Wolfsberger, £450k (joint fee) >>> Kilian Ludewig, 19, RB, RB Salzburg, Loan

Winter Outs: >>> Dimityri Cavare, 25, RB, Sion, Undisclosed >>> Dylan Mottley Henry, 22, RW, Bradford, Free >>> Victor Adeboyejo, 21, CF, Bristol Rovers, Loan >>> Cameron McGeehan, 24, CM, Portsmouth, Loan >>> Malik Wilks, 21, LW, Hull, Loan >>> Jordan Green, 24, RW, Newport, Loan >>> Toby Sibbick, 20, RB, Hearts, Loan

Weak links in the side?

JB: It’s never nice to call any individual player a weak link especially when they’re young lads who’re learning their trade so instead I will just say a couple of things certain players could improve on. Our goalkeeper Sami Radlinger is a top shot stopper but I think he fancies himself as an outfield player because he loves to mess about with the ball at his feet in dangerous situations which just puts us under more pressure, seriously my stress levels go through the roof watching him sometimes. I’m all for playing it out from the back but we need to move the ball quicker instead of inviting pressure. There’s also been several times this season our keepers (not just Radlinger) have kicked the ball straight to the oppositions striker and more often than not we’ve been punished for the error. At the back we’re slowly improving but countless individual errors have cost us massively this season and are the reason we’re down at the bottom.

Luke: All of our defence. That might sound daft but honestly, up until February we had been atrocious at the back. Since Sollbauer came in at the back we have been better but I still don't think we're particularly good in that area.

Tough fixtures to come, particularly the last three. Presumably the Stoke, Luton and Wigan fixtures are the ones you’re hanging it all on?

JB: No not at all, in fact I think the games against the bottom clubs will be are most difficult. Stoke and Luton showed us up earlier in the season but we’ve shown we can compete with the big boys like Fulham and West Brom. The last three we have Leeds, Forest and Brentford, two teams who will be most likely under huge pressure to win for a play off place and Leeds often bottle it at the end of the season so it might be a good time to play them.

Luke: I guess so yeah, we might get fortunate against a few sides that maybe don't have anything to play for towards the back end of the season but it's going to be tough. Those three games are very important though. Six points or more needed from those in my opinion. Four won't be enough.

Barnsley’s remaining league games…
Mar 14 QPR A
Mar 17 Millwall H
Mar 21 Blackburn H
Apr 4 Stoke A
Apr 10 Luton A
Apr 13 Wigan H
Apr 18 Leeds A
Apr 25 Forest H
May 2 Brentford A

Do you think you’ll stay up, and what will be the consequences if you don’t? Is the club positioned to swap places with Rotherham again in 12 months time?

JB: I give us a 20% chance of staying up. I’m realistic about the situation and know the chances are we’re doing our yearly swap with Rotherham but I’m an optimist and anything can happen in these strange times. We don’t know how not having fans in the grounds will impact things or what impact the break has had on each team. If we do go down I’d back us to come straight back up but if that’s the case we have to learn from past mistakes, which mainly means not selling too many key players before becoming a settled Championship side and ensuring we have at least two or three experienced players.

Luke: No I don't. Like I said earlier, I think we'll do better in these final nine games and probably get closer than we are now but I don't think it will be enough. Before lockdown started, Hull and Charlton were in horrendous form so if that carries on and we do better than Luton maybe we can magically survive. Also, maybe if the EFL actually had some backbone and gave proper punishments to the three teams that have broken the rules (Wednesday, Derby and Birmingham) then maybe we would stand a much better chance.

I guess the consequences of relegation now are made much worse because of the financial impact on all clubs from Covid 19. There's a real threat that League 1 will struggle to start playing next season as they can't survive without ticket sales and fans attending. I don't think we will come back up as easily as we did last time.

Links >>> March interview with Reds Report – Interview >>> Barnsley Official Website >>> Yorkshire Post – Local Press >>> Sheffield Star – Local Press >>> BBS Fan Forum – Message Board >>> Reds Report – Podcast

The Twitter @JosephBeardsall, @BFC_Luke, @loftforwords

Pictures – Action Images

Action Images

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

TacticalR added 13:53 - Jun 20
Thanks to JB and Luke.

QPR's ambition is to sell on players, but I think we sometimes forget that you can have too much of a good thing and selling too many players at the wrong time can backfire.

That was some pretty astonishing goalkeeping from the Fulham keeper against Barnsley in the Youtube video.

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