Barnsley Season Preview

barnsleyThe Football Lab interviewed Barnsley Fan Spencer Davies, ahead of the new season. You can follow Spencer on Twitter @TheGodfatherUk. Here, he discusses the signing of Conor Hourihane, the lack of pace in the team, and the club’s restructuring of the wage bill this summer.

A common criticism of Danny Wilson is that his side plays at too slow a tempo. Do you share this view?

I don’t necessarily share this view. I think our side’s slow tempo was down to the ability of players he inherited. Our midfield last season wasn’t exactly blessed with pace, but more with grafters which didn’t work. Looking back at the midfield, I’d say there was only Dale Jennings with a turn of pace as Jim O’Brien got injured.

Goalkeeper Luke Steele looked to be one of Barnsley’s better players last season. Is it a blow that he’s leaving? And what do you make of the new keeper, Adam Davies?

It’s a big blow he’s leaving. In an ideal world everyone associated at the club would have wanted to keep Steele but recently reading his final interview with us, you can see why he’s left. When you look at the club now, it’s severely lacking in experience. With it being known that the club needs to get the experienced players off the wage books, everyone’s expectations have gone down for the coming season. Everyone along with myself wishes Luke the very best, and I’ll still class him as a Barnsley player when I see him on the TV playing in the Champions League!.

In regards with Adam Davies (no relation!), he comes highly recommended by Mark Crossley, our goalkeeping coach, who has worked with him but there is a concern among fans that he hasn’t ever played a professional game. My response to that would be you need to start somewhere. Having seen him in goal for 45 minutes against Halifax, he has the height for a keeper.

You had the worst defensive record in the Championship last season. Do you think the manager will look to re-organize the defence?

When Wilson came in we did start to look better at the back, so I guess he’s getting the platform right. I suspect this season our men in the middle will be M’Voto and Nyatanga, who appeared to forge a decent understanding together when thrust in last season, due to injuries to Cranie and Ramage. It’s no secret that Wilson is desperately looking for a right back too at the moment. Hopefully this will be an experienced one who can also help bringing our younger players through too.

Stalwart Bobby Hassell was frozen out for much of last season. Was he treated unfairly?

I’d agree with that assessment. I think if it wasn’t for fan power, he would have left the season before as it didn’t look like he was going to be retained then. Many fans to this day still think that the club only offered him so he could get a testimonial at the club. Looking at the games Bobby played last season, we actually looked a better team.

I would have thought that we would have kept Bobby on. Not because he’s been such a loyal servant to the club, but for his versatility, reading of the game and ability to pass on his experience to the academy graduates coming through. He’s played in the net, right-back, centre-half, left back and midfield just off the top of my head.

I’ve mooted the idea of getting Wilson to bring Bobby back, but we all know that managers never admit to their mistakes when it comes to things like this!

According to Who Scored, 44% of your play came down the left hand side last season. To what extent was this was down to left-back Tom Kennedy, who started all but 2 games?

I’d put this down to Dale Jennings, Jim O’Brien and Jacob Mellis who were often stuck out on the left side of the pitch. Kennedy’s passing was usually a punt up to O’Grady for him to hold it. Tom Kennedy has been made a little into a scapegoat in my opinion. The season previous it was Wiseman and then this past season it had been Dawson & Kennedy. Kennedy in my opinion appears to be happy on the left side of a back 3, rather than left back these days. A system with wing backs worked under Flitcroft but it was very rarely employed last season.

Conor Hourihane joins from Plymouth. Was it important to add a more dynamic midfield player?

Very important, as the players we had released or rejected deals offered left us without any kind of flair at all. Hourihane comes highly recommended, so it will be interesting to see how he performs in League 1. As its one of Wilsons signings, I’d bank on him being captain, looking at the present squad.

Target man Chris O’Grady netted 15 times last season. If he leaves for Brighton as expected, could you struggle for goals?

Quite possibly. Everyone would probably have loved to have kept O’Grady. Scoring 15 goals in a relegated team last season isn’t bad going at all and he would have arguably been the top scorer in League 1. We’ve brought in Kane Hemmings who has been putting goals in for fun in Scotland, so he may fill the void.

O’Grady has had to depart to fund the squad rebuild, as he was one of the high earners and bringing in players isn’t possible due to Salary Cap Management in play. We’ve currently got Hoskins on trial who has scored goals at this level but hasn’t played a game in 18 months. I’m hopeful Danny Rose will come up to the plate this season. He scored a couple of goals at Championship level and League 2 with Bury, so fingers crossed.

With the aforementioned big earners leaving, do you feel this is a transitional time for the club?

Very much so. Looking at the squad, we’ve had to get rid of quite a few players due to the income loss of not being in the Championship. Players that are still under contract, we’re trying to get out due to wages so It’s going to take time for the club to get sorted again. Trying to look at the club from the outside, it would appear that we relied heavily on being in the Championship to be a self sufficient club.

Our club is ran very prudently since learning from the mistakes of administration and I don’t expect that to change unless a big investor comes into the club. I don’t expect promotion back on the first attempt but I trust Danny with our rebuilding process. He’s done it once before.

Most bookmakers have Barnsley at around 5/1 for promotion. Where will you finish?

Unless some experience is added to this side, I don’t think we’ll be challenging for promotion any time soon. I was hopeful of maybe sneaking into the top 6 or being in the top 10 but with the significant lack of experience in our ranks, I’d say we’ll be around mid table. I think Wilson banked on Dawson, O’Brien and Cywka staying at the club for experience but as they’ve left, it’s left us scurrying about for players. Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day so I’ll give Danny a good season to get things right.

TFL Verdict

Barnsley have lost a few key players, but this will be a younger, hungrier Barnsley team, and one that can make the play-offs. 5th

(Image from