Mansford staying calm as Reds target repeat escape

David Flitcroft and his players celebrate
David Flitcroft and his players celebrate
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THE parallels between the parlous situation that relegation-haunted Barnsley find themselves in today as opposed to 12 months ago is somewhat uncanny.

Another year, another grim battle for Championship status for the Reds, who many would venture need another Lazarus-style act of escapology to save their skins.

Perhaps their best yet after several survival scrapes since promotion back in 2005-06.

Just over a year ago on January 11, 2013, the Oakwell outfit were propping up the table with 21 points – with just five wins arriving from their first 26 league fixtures and their chances of survival looking slimmer by the week.

Today, Barnsley are in a similar predicament, having accrued just 17 points from 24 matches and anchored to the bottom of the second-tier with just three wins.

But given what transpired in an incredible second-half of 2012-13 when the Reds, inspired by an ebullient leader in David Flitcroft, orchestrated a stunning Great Escape mission to rank with any – not just at Oakwell but across the land – there remains hope.

But equally, neither is there any panic at Oakwell, according to chief executive Ben Mansford, despite Barnsley arguably approaching their most critical game of the season against a visiting side plunged at the bottom of the Championship form table and somewhat in dire straits in Blackpool.

He said: “There’s 22 games left and now we have that (Charlton) game in hand and if you look at winning that, we could be two points off safety.

“I don’t think anyone is getting too worried yet. Danny Wilson is a calm and experienced manager and someone who we are definitely enjoying working with.”

Barnsley have already made two additions this month to bolster their squad in US international winger Brek Shea signed on loan from Stoke City and young Liverpool right-back Ryan McLaughlin, with Liam Lawrence set to be unveiled today.

Mansford feels that addition of quality, allied to one or two more captures, will provide real impetus to their latest survival mission.

He added: “We thought the squad was one or two too heavy so we are tidying that up. While in Brek, a full American international signed by Stoke for in excess of £2m, Ryan, who we think will give us incredible energy on the right and Liam Lawrence, who is hoping signing a permanent contract with us, we feel we have signed three real bits of quality.”

Reds supporters who do seek inspiration may care to flash back to a similar high-stakes clash 12 months ago when Leeds arrived at Oakwell on January 12, 2013.

A brace from Chris Dagnall helped the pumped-up hosts secure their first home league victory since the start of September, when they beat Bristol City.

After that triumph, the Reds – who promptly gave Flitcroft the manager’s job for the rest of the season – never looked back, culminating in some remarkable scenes on their own D-Day at Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium on May 4, when a Yorkshire ‘love-in’ occured as the Reds and Town stayed up.

Ask any Barnsley fan who strapped themselves in for a thrilling joyride in the second half of 2012-13 and they will point to that Leeds match as the moment when the blue-touch paper was lit for an epic survival mission.

That had looked like being Mission Impossible at the start of 2013 after just two home league wins.

Incidentally, that is the Reds’ tally so far this term.

Ask Flitcroft’s successor Wilson if he would take Barnsley having their fate in their own hands and knowing what they needed to do to survive going into the final game of the current season and you sense he might just take it.

Especially with Barnsley having been ensconsed in the bottom three for most of the season.

Flitcroft proved himself an able war-time leader, if not neccessarily a peace-time one given his inauspicious run in the first half of 2013-14 which ended in his exit.

Now the task facing Wilson is to rally a town just as Flitcroft did and come up with his own ‘Leeds’ moment.

After that Leeds win, Flitcroft set his side a safety target of eight wins from their last 19 games – this after winning just six of their opening 27. He achieved his goal.

It will take a similar win ratio from Wilson in Barnsley’s last 22 games to perform a similar trick. In layman’s terms, nine or 10 wins.

Several of the heroes from that Great Escape mission have left, including Dagnall and Scott Wiseman. But a number remain who can draw inspiration from those unforgettable memories, including the likes of Luke Steele, Chris O’Grady, David Perkins and Martin Cranie.

Only time will tell if Wilson possesses enough character, resolve and quality in the dressing room and if his charges don their combat fatigues as impressively and Mansford is sure they will.

Mansford added: “With the new signings and the likes of Martin Cranie, Peter Ramage, Luke Steele and Stephen Dawson we will have enough.

“We do feel we are at a little bit of a crossroads and just hope that, like last year, the boys come together, unite and drive on,” he added.