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Barnsley 0 v 1 Swansea City
SkyBet Championship
Monday, 17th May 2021 Kick-off 20:15
Barnsley v Swansea City : Play Off Semi Final : The Real Danger Man Valérien Ismaël
Sunday, 9th May 2021 14:25 by Keith Haynes

One of the most impressive managers in the championship this season has to be Valérien Ismaël. Now a German citizen he was born in Strasbourg, France. During his playing career, Ismaël played for Racing Strasbourg, Crystal Palace, RC Lens, Werder Bremen, Bayern Munich, and Hannover 96. He has taken that success as a player in to his coaching methodology and very similar to Steve Cooper - but at a far higher level, Valérien Ismaël knows exactly how to guide and mentor his players.

Ismaël, who also won the Bundesliga with Werder Bremen as a player and was Crystal Palace’s £2.75m record signing in 1998, is an imposing figure who can comfortably command the room, but he knows management has changed since the days of Felix Magath’s hellish pre-season – “a boot camp, like you prepare for a war” – or even compared with when he cut his teeth coaching German second teams, at Hannover and Wolfsburg. “All the time, you have to adapt your communication, your management, with your staff, fans, sponsors – it is completely different job to 10 years ago.”

Swansea City should be very aware of this of course, however, Valérien Ismaël has an ethos of his own. He has learned at the very top from the very best. For someone who played at the highest level, alongside Oliver Kahn and against Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the former defender must have a mountain of anecdotes but, beyond declaring Zé Roberto the best player he had the pleasure of calling a teammate, they must wait, because Ismael is making his mark at Barnsley. The 45-year-old, who guided the Austrian club Lask to the last 16 of the Europa League last season before coming unstuck against Manchester United, is the conductor of one of the Championship’s most entertaining sides. “It’s not boring when you see our games,” he says, to put it succinctly.

Following his retirement, he moved into management, first as a reserve coach for a number of clubs before moving into senior management at FC Nürnberg, then with VfL Wolfsburg before a notable spell with LASK of the Austrian Bundesliga. As a player, he won the Coupe de France, the Coupe de la Ligue twice, the Bundesliga twice, as well as the DFB-Pokal on two occasions. This is a seriously qualified manager who would has brought with him to Barnsley a philosophy that has seen major changes to the tykes. In fact for us here at Swansea Independent he is most certainly the divisions manager of the season.

Ismael is in confident mood after his club completed a hugely impressive second half of the Championship season during which they won 13 out of 19 games. Only Watford managed to achieve a better run in. In contrast, the Swans won just eight times and that comparison made the Frenchman feel able to claim that the two victories earned by Steve Cooper’s men in the head-to-heads between the clubs in the first half of the campaign will count for little.

Barnsley finished their season with a 2-2 draw at home to champions Norwich City, while the Swans lost 2-0 at promoted Watford. the former defender Ismael said: “We played them twice in the space of a short time when Swansea were really strong, but the momentum has changed. “Daryl Dike and Carlton Morris coming in has given us more options and we’ve got a desire now to change the story of the season against Swansea. It’s an incredible achievement to finish the season where we have done after how it started and what happened last season [Barnsley were only spared relegation after a 90th-minute, final-day winning goal at Brentford].

“It’s down to the players’ commitment on the pitch. They have dedicated themselves to the principles of how we want to play football and I also want to pay tribute to my backroom staff, because everyone gives everything here. I really hope we can now get a big reward in the play-offs because, when you believe in something, you can achieve some great results. It was important for us to finish strongly against the champions and I thought we were back to the intensity we have shown throughout the season. Ismael added that captain Alex Mowatt was rested against Norwich due to a groin issue but the former Leeds midfielder is expected to recover in time to face the Swans.

Swansea City can expect a pacey and well drilled side next Monday evening ( 17th May, Oakwell, Kick off 8.15pm UK time ) In fact a team that is hardly recognisable in organisation, formation and strength in depth to the one they have already beaten twice this season.

Cooper’s team , who finished fourth with a total of 80 points, will be away to Barnsley in the first leg on Monday, May 17 before the return leg at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday May 22. Cooper said: “We’ve been to Barnsley, as everybody else has this year, and they deserve a lot of credit for being where they are and for the second half of the season they’ve had. “It’ll be a really tough game. We know how hard it’s been to get into these play-offs in these current circumstances and scheduling. “So the four teams that have got there are going to be a really good outfit, including us.”Congratulations to Watford, they’ve done brilliant this year in getting promoted in what has been an incredibly tough season”

“I didn’t think we deserved to lose, but at the same time we didn’t do enough to win it. We got into loads of great positions to threaten the goal and we didn’t and they did with the two goals, which was the difference. But I said to the players I liked so many parts of the performance apart from the final bit, which is often the most important. The stats behind the game show that so something to focus on going into a couple of big games in the semi-final.I’m not going to contradict last week about nothing really mattering in terms of who you play and where you play and guaranteeing the result that you want which is getting to the final. We’ll take it as it comes. Is it an advantage to play at home in the second game? We’ve got to make sure we approach the first game right, get the work done on the training ground and let’s just look at that game first and get ready for it”

Barnsley have the momentum and the drive with a manager that has learned much during his football career. This we believe makes Barnsley favourites to win the home leg of the semi finals, anything less than that is a huge bonus for Cooper. Then it’s down to desire and which team wants a Wembley play off the most.

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Photographs licensed from Reuters

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ReslovenSwan1 added 17:35 - May 9
Barnsely changed their seasons dynamic by way of their January dealings. Daryl Dike and Carlton Morris have added greatly to their season. Swansea simply added insurance, squad players and a couple for the future. This might be decsisive

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