Simon Davey aims to avoid another season of struggle with the Tykes and steer the Championship club towards the top six. Ian Appleyard reports on the demands of the job at Oakwell.
A WIND of change is blowing around Oakwell. Photographs celebrating life in the Premier League have been moved and a banner above the ticket office screams 'My Town, My Team, My Blood.'
This is Barnsley's way of telling supporters to enjoy the here and now rather than living in the past.
It is 11 years since the club enjoyed their one and only season in the top flight and nine subsequent managers have struggled to cope with the burdens of raised expectations.
Welshman Simon Davey has survived longer than the rest. A relative unknown when promoted from the position of Academy coach, Davey has been in charge now for nearly three years.
In another move which is likely to bring the club and their supporters closer together, Davey has also decided to rely less heavily on foreign players.
While adamant that the club's 'foreign policy' has not been a failure (25 non-English players joined the club in just over two years) Davey is now set to 'buy British' and offer greater opportunities to the club's youngsters.
"People are saying I am going more British-based but what I am trying to do is make the squad leaner by allowing a lot of foreign players to leave," he said.
"Even with budgets and the spiralling cost of players in English football, we managed to stay in this division for three seasons using players from abroad who were off the radar so our foreign signings have worked.
"However, this season I wanted to get players in with more experience of the British league and the Championship programme. That's the way I have gone about it and let's see if it works."
Brazilian defender Dennis Souza, Dutchman Marciano van Homoet, German goalkeeper Heinz Muller, Iranian midfielder Andranik and Maltese striker Michael Mifsud have all moved on during the summer.
Davey has yet to bolster his immediate first-team options but former Sheffield United striker Andy Gray will join the club pending a takeover at Charlton Athletic and talks are on-going in relation to deals for Rangers midfielder Charlie Adam and Liverpool winger Adam Hammil.
"Of the players I have targeted, three are British-based and one is foreign. I am hopeful we can turn them into signings within the next week to 10 days before the season starts," he said.
The appointment of Stuart Gibson as a development coach is another signal of Barnsley's shift in emphasis.
Gibson, who has coached in Norway and Sweden and previously worked as head of youth at Plymouth Argyle, has been given special responsibility for the six youngsters who are currently knocking on the door of the first team.
Among these is teenage midfielder Reuben Noble-Lazarus who became the youngster player in Football League history last season and who spent two weeks on trial at Manchester United before signing a professional deal at Oakwell this summer.
"Over the last four or five years, we have not had much coming through the Academy," admitted Davey.
"We now have players with the potential to come through and we will give them the best opportunity possible to hit our first team.
"Reuben is one of the most exciting talents to come out of our Academy in a long, long while. You don't get the opportunity to train with Manchester United unless you have the potential to be a superstar.
"It was a fantastic experience and he has come back full of beans. We have to ensure that we give him the pathway to fufil his potential and become a valuable asset to this football club."
The five other members of Gibson's development squad are Onome Sodje, Luke Potter, Jacob Butterfield, Jamil Adam and striker Michael Coulson who was yesterday given the all-clear to resume full training after two cruciate knee ligament operations.
Davey insists that survival in the Championship has been a 'major achievement' for Barnsley considering the size of budgets elsewhere but, equally, accepts that the team needs to push for the play-offs to satisfy their supporters.
"Fans will always want success and my job is to give them that success," he said. "We have stayed in this division three times now and that is a major achievement.
"My objective this season is to get the football club within striking distance by the time we come to the turn of the New Year. If we are 12th to halfway by January, we will have the opportunity to kick on and get towards the play-offs.
"We know it's going to be tough. Newcastle, Middlesbrough and West Brom have come down with parachute payments and even the clubs who have come up are spending big.
"I think they might have discovered oil at Nottingham Forest," he added. "They seem to be signing two new players every day!"
Patrick Cryne, Barnsley's owner and a lifelong supporter, demonstrated his faith in Davey by resisting calls for change at the end of the last season.
Davey says the removal of the old photographs – which are to be displayed at the club's new museum – was probably Cryne's idea and is totally behind it.
The idea mirrors a decision by former Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson to take down photos of Don Revie's players during the early days of his reign at Elland Road.
"We have history around the ground but players need to feel welcome," said Davey. "There is nothing better than to walk down the tunnel and see pictures of yourself in action. That's what we have tried to do."
As for the banner, which includes an image of Iain Hume over the words 'My Blood', Davey said: "We need the town to get behind us and we are working tirelessly to improve the club internally and externally."
Hume's return after suffering a horrific fractured skull last season is just another reason for Oakwell optimism.
Ins and outs at Oakwell
Last season's position: 20th, Championship.
In: Onome Sodje (York City), Darren Preece (OB Odense).
Out: Heinz Muller (FSV Mainz 05, 600,000), Dennis Souza (Al-Sailiya Sports), Diego Leon (Las Palmas), Marciano van Homoet, Kyle Letheren.
YP prediction: Barnsley have narrowly avoided relegation for the last three seasons but have the quality to push for the top 10. The return of Iain Hume and the proposed capture of Andy Gray could solve last season's biggest problem, namely scoring goals. Manager Simon Davey also knows that his side threw too many points away in the latter stages of games. Although Barnsley have promising youngsters waiting in the wings, this season may come too soon. The few remaining foreign players at the club, eg Anderson, Hugo Colace, Jamal Campbell-Ryce, and Daniel Bogdanovic need to deliver on a regular basis if Barnsley are to succeed in their ambitions.