Barnsley Season Preview: bouncing back

With the 2018-19 League One season coming up, The Football Lab spoke to Barnsley fan Luke Tingle (@BFC_Luke).

It feels from the outside as though when you’ve enjoyed success, you’ve had strong characters on and off the field who have an affinity with the fans. Is that something you perhaps lost during the 2017-18 relegation campaign?

Last season was a complete mess in all honesty. It stemmed from the loss of so many key players in January 2017 to then the rest of the important players leaving on a free in the summer (along with good loan players returning to their respected clubs).

We then had to sign so many players last summer (I think it was around 16 new players) that it was always going to be a struggle. I thought we’d start off poorly and start to improve over time, but in fact the opposite happened. We started reasonably well and then through a calamity of errors just seemed to get worse and worse.

I don’t particularly think that there weren’t strong characters within last seasons team, in fact I rated and still do rate a lot of the lads that we recruited and I back them to come back stronger this season. We looked like we had quite good strength in depth going into the season but the balance of the entire squad was way off. We signed too many “attacking” midfielders because of the “spreadsheet” (on paper they have the best stats which is how we sign players).

We relied too heavily on Bradshaw scoring the goals which was all well and good when Harvey Barnes was assisting most of them, but then he went back to Leicester. We soon learned that a lot of the squad weren’t continuously up to the standard, as we never had a settled eleven and we continued to lose games.

Maybe if Hecky had picked a settled 11, the lads might have actually improved together, especially in the first half of the season when the pressure is nowhere near as high. Morais actually used (for the most part) a settled 11 that seemed like it would get the best out of the players at his disposal, however at that time it was already too late as results didn’t come soon enough.

Obviously the fans were never going to have the affinity to this set of players like they had done for the previous side of the last 2 years, as that side was one of the best I’ve seen put together down at Oakwell. The fans got right behind the new lads and even though there was a negative minority constantly criticising, I saw most people willing them to improve as we all thought they would. One thing is for certain though… it speaks volumes when a lad you sign on loan at the very end of January is your player of the season.

One of those big characters was Adam Hammill, who has been allowed to leave on a free transfer before the new manager was appointed. What do you make of that decision?

I was majorly disappointed at the news that we’d allowed Adam to leave but I completely understood it. With Adam getting towards the back end of his career he will be looking for the best contract he can possibly get and I know for a fact that because of relegation that there was no chance that he was going to get that at Barnsley.

I hoped that Adam would finish his career here and move straight into a coaching role at Barnsley. Unfortunately because of relegation it’s not going to happen but I sincerely hope that he’s back at the club in some fashion soon.

He’ll always be a legend here.

Your new head coach is Daniel Stendel. Are you excited by his reportedly attacking approach, or concerned by his lack of experience?

I had never heard of him and to be honest I was relieved when it was announced, not just because of the fact it had taken the club quite some time to replace Morais though.

The other names that had been spoken about were very typical ones that weren’t particularly inspiring. From what I’ve read about him I’m very excited to see what he can do with the lads and how he can get us playing. Hopefully we’re going to be seeing fast attacking football when on the ball and an aggressive counter-press approach to getting the ball back when we lose it. In my opinion his style of play suits the club and fans down to the ground. Let’s hope it pays off though, as a lot of fans have already raised concerns that the board shouldn’t have gone down this route after what happened with Morais.

If we assume Jordan Barnett, Tai-Reece Chisholm, Elvis Otim and Louis Walsh have all been signed for the Development Squad, you’ve not made any first team additions until at least mid-July. Did you need a bigger overhaul after relegation?

They definitely have been signed for the development squad which I’m not confident about, but that’s a story for another time…

No I don’t think we needed an overhaul like the last time we went down. The positive aspect about the way we sign players through the so called “spreadsheet” is that most of the lads have come from this level and have been successful.

I would have liked to have seen us sign one or two permanents by now so we could use the loan market towards the end of the window, but I’m not particularly worried about it yet. It’s quite evident that we’ve let a few go to help with the balance of the squad which was a real issue last season, so it’s good to see us addressing key problem areas.

I think our main priorities are a defensive midfielder and a winger/striker, although I’m still not particularly sure what formation he wants to use so that might not be true.

I’d be very surprised if we don’t bring anyone in, even though I reckon we have one of the strongest squads in this league it’s not a given that they will quickly get over last seasons relegation, so I think it’s important to freshen up the squad a little.

Tom Bradshaw is an excellent goalscorer at League One level. Can you keep hold of him?

The word coming out of the club at the moment is that he is definitely not for sale unless it’s for very very good money. It’s refreshing to hear that we’re having that sort of stance as usually we move players on fairly quickly if the money is right.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he does go as I’ve come to expect that we lose our better players, but it would be great if we could hang on to him as his record at this level speaks for itself.

Target man Kieffer Moore seemed to make an impact after joining in January. Do you think he’s best as a lone striker, or when he has somebody up alongside him?

Both to be honest, but if he’s by himself then you need runners from midfield who can finish or an attacker getting close to him like Mcburnie did last season.

He was very good for us last year, the sort of striker that every club needs in my opinion. He may not have properly got his eye in on goal last season, but he was vital in Oliver McBurnie getting his goals.

Goalkeeper Jack Walton has signed a new deal this summer. Did he show enough to suggest he could challenge Adam Davies?

Yes he definitely did. I’ve been watching Walty for quite sometime and I think he’s an excellent young keeper. Saying that though I think the new U23 keeper Jake Greatorex could be even better if he does what Walty did and goes on loan somewhere.

Davo didn’t have a good season last year but not many of our players did. I think everyone should have a clean slate and Davies definitely deserves another chance.

Ethan Pinnock appeared to be your highest-rated centre-back last year. Would you like to see him partnered by Liam Lindsay or Adam Jackson?

I think the centre-back position is our strongest in my opinion. Lindsay had a very solid season last year, we also looked worse when Jackson got injured early on last season and then Pinnock was a breath of fresh air when he finally got his chance. All of that was in a really poor relegation season, so that should give us some hope defensively for the upcoming season.

I don’t think any of or centre backs are nailed on starters but I get the feeling that most managers wouldn’t put two left footed centre halves together. Like I said earlier though, I’ve no idea what formation he is thinking of using, he may go three at the back which to be honest could suit all three of them perfectly.

You’ve lost Andy Yiadom to Reading but Jason McCarthy has won Player of the Year awards with Wycombe and Walsall. Do you expect him to perform well at right-back?

I hope so. I like Jason and I think he’s got a fantastic engine and can get up and down excellently, but last season he looked absolutely lost defensively at times. I thought he was slightly harshly dropped towards the beginning of the season however, when he got his chance again unfortunately he showed exactly why he’d been dropped as most of the goals we conceded came down his side. Let’s not be too hard on him though, because we were woeful as a team for the most part. When you look at his record in League Two and in this league he should hopefully hit the ground running this year.

Zeki Fryers appears to have ability but some have questioned his attitude. With Daniel Pinillos in the fray, are you expecting stiff competition for the left-back spot?

Left back is one of our weakest positions. We were much better with Yiadom there. Zeki never looked comfortable and Pinillos never really did anything of any note when he played. I don’t mind which plays but I reckon youngster Ben Williams isn’t too far behind both of them.

There doesn’t appear to be too many natural holding midfielders in the squad, especially with loanee Gary Gardner going back to Villa. Could Jared Bird carve out a niche for himself?

Definitely! I think we majorly need to add another defensive midfielder but Birdy is a very good player. I don’t particularly think he’s a proper defensive midfielder but he could definitely play in that role and thrive in it. In fact I think he’s mostly played in that role so far this pre-season and he’s a naturally fit boy. I’m sure I remember him breaking our record for best bleep test score the other year, so Stendel could be keen to see how he gets on in that position.

Lloyd Isgrove, Cameron McGeehan, Brad Potts and George Moncur have all shown potential in League One in the past. However, how many of those players can you fit into the same midfield?

One of those midfielders will have to miss out some games unfortunately, especially because you’ve missed out Alex Mowatt as well!

Isgrove will go on the wing and then it will be two of Moncur, Potts, McGeehan and Mowatt in my opinion to fight for them midfield spots. I’m obviously guessing that we’ll be playing three in midfield but I think Potts will get the nod and I’m a big Moncur fan, he’d be absolutely class if he could give us more than 20 minutes without blowing out of his backside!

If it was me I would be building the squad around getting Moncur and Bradshaw linking up well.

Tykes aside, what are your thoughts ahead of the League One season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

I’m not sure to be honest. I think the league this year looks much weaker than previous ones towards the top end but maybe much tighter at the bottom end of the table.

I would expect Charlton and Peterborough to improve on last season and maybe Portsmouth and Plymouth will be up there as well. No one really knows how Sunderland are going to get on. There’s also some tough sides like Scunthorpe, Rochdale and Oxford etc who’ll always make it tricky. There will always be an outsider do well but I couldn’t guess who! Also, there’s always a newly promoted side that does well, maybe Coventry? We never win at Coventry.

Where will you finish?

There’s nothing to fear in this league at all and I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised if we ran away with it… but then knowing us I wouldn’t be surprised if we struggled and finished bottom half either. There’s still a lot of unknown quantities about us and we majorly need to work on getting the balance of the squad right whilst implementing a new style.

Apparently Stendel is big on fitness and that should stand us in good stead. I reckon we’ll start the season okay but properly start to kick on in the 2nd half of the season. I said that last year though and look what happened…

We’ll get in the play offs fairly comfortably. 5th.

Thanks to Luke for his answers. The Football Lab’s verdict on Barnsley can be found on We Love Betting from 30th July.