While the build-up to today’s game against Oldham rightfully focuses on former Latics manager Lee Johnson’s attempt to arrest an eight league game losing streak, he is not the only Tyke returning to an old stomping ground.
The arrival of Aidan White on loan from Rotherham United this week means Barnsley have another Oldham old boy on their books, but it is unlikely that White will receive much attention from the crowd at Boundary Park. He had two loan spells with Athletic while on the books at Leeds United, appearing 24 times in the league.
On the other hand, Johnson’s move to Barnsley last season was, in the manager’s own words, “the most amicable parting of a manager in history”, but the reaction from the fans on his first return was vitriolic to say the least.
With the Oakwell club 23rd in League One and going through an exceptionally rough patch of form, Johnson admitted he might have to have his “tin hat on”. There will be no such fear for White.
He said: “It’s the first time I’ve gone to play back there, so I’m looking forward to that, but hopefully I’ll get the win for Barnsley.
“I was at Oldham when I was about 18, 19. I had about six or seven months there. I quite enjoyed it, I scored a few goals. We had quite a good team back then, so I’m looking forward to going back.”
White is also clear about what is expected of him and fellow new signing Kevin Long, who joined on loan from Burnley on Thursday.
White is hopeful that the two additions will make the difference as Barnsley look to avoid equalling their worst-ever losing streak in the league.
Beyond that, he’s hoping they can make an impact on the club’s league position.
He added: “I think we’ve come in to get the lads back up the table. Obviously, it’s not a great run. They have been unlucky for some of the results, they have not gone their way. That’s football.
“We have to put that right, and hopefully we can do that at the weekend.
“I’m going to be solid at the back and play my part going forward. Hopefully, I can achieve that, and bringing in Kevin as well is going to help massively.”
It would not be a surprise to hear that Johnson’s troops are on the floor after the difficult run, but White says that is simply not the case.
He said: “They seem quite upbeat. They are trying to stay positive, and I think that’s important. You’ve got to maintain that positive outlook on things.”
White has had a difficult 18 months. The left-back fractured his foot in a pre-season friendly against Chesterfield in July 2014, and was kept out for the majority of the season by a series of complications stemming from the required surgery. He has also struggled to force his way into the first team since moving to Rotherham, making only eight appearances in the league this campaign.
With a need to kick-start his career, the 24-year-old revealed that a pair of conversations with Rotherham manager Neil Redfearn, a hero around Oakwell, and Johnson convinced him to make the switch. He has since been impressed with Johnson’s work.
“I’m very excited to be here. Neil gave me a call on Monday night and said Barnsley had come in with a loan, do you fancy it? Go there for a month, get a run of games and come back and see where we are,” he said.
“Neil told me that it’s a great club.
“I spoke to Lee on Monday night before I signed. He came across really well. I had a training session with him on Tuesday, and it was good, so I’m looking forward to working with him.”
With over 100 Football League appearances to his name, White immediately becomes one of the more experienced players in a young Barnsley squad, something that can also be said for the 25-year-old Long, who has previously spent time with Accrington Stanley, Rochdale and Portsmouth.
Long, who is keen to “help the club in any way” during his spell, said he has been “craving a loan for ages”. He has spent 10 months on the sidelines after suffering an ACL injury on January 1 while playing for Burnley at Newcastle. While he managed a full pre-season, he admitted it has been difficult to break into a Burnley side that are pushing for promotion to the Premier League.
The centre-back had no desire to dredge up Barnsley’s recent run, believing the only way to operate is to look forward.
He said: “I can only look at what I have seen in my first training session this morning. I spoke to the gaffer this morning and he said they probably could have won seven out of the eight games, so I think that shows how tight the games were.
“I can only look to the future with this team here now, and, hopefully, win a few games.
“Hopefully, if I train well, the gaffer will put me in the team.
“If I play on Saturday, I’m really looking forward to it.”
Johnson himself believes that the signings will only make Barnsley “that five or ten per cent stronger”.
That is clearly important to the manager, who is adamant that he has no desire to go down in the history books for an unwanted record.
When asked about the extent to which he wants to avoid that, he said: “Damn diggity straight I don’t.
“I want to break the positive records, the wins in a row and that sort of stuff.
“The focus is to get a win on Saturday.
“If it happens that we lose, I’ll obviously be devastated, but I don’t think it will.
“We’re not far off, our last two performances have been pretty good. What better game to kick on?”