Barnsley FC’s ‘second-richest owners’ in the Championship are sleepwalking the club back into League One

“Sack the board,” chanted the Barnsley fans as their team stared down the barrel of defeat at home to Bristol City.

Barnsley's Cauley Woodrow puts Bristol City's Tomas Kalas under pressure.
 (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
Barnsley's Cauley Woodrow puts Bristol City's Tomas Kalas under pressure. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

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Implausibly, the Reds came from 2-0 down to snatch a draw against the Robins, but the point had been made. That was November 1.

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Managerless Barnsley were drifting and it was not just the absence of a permanent boss frustrating supporters. It summed up the seemingly feeble response to promotion from the boardroom.

Kieffer Moore left Barnsley but has had little impact at Wigan (Picture: PA)

When the team stepped up from League One to the Championship in the summer, its directors appeared reluctant to do likewise. Manager Daniel Stendel feared it, and then paid the price, but fans made it clear who they felt the real culprits were.

Key players have been sold. That Kiefer Moore and Ethan Pinnock have made so little impact on the division Barnsley are playing in has added to the frustration. Free transfer Adam Davies is third-choice goalkeeper at Stoke City, the Reds’s closest relegation rivals.

Making 24-year-old Cauley Woodrow’s loan from Fulham permanent was important – he has six league goals this season – but the sense in the transfer window was of a club trying to do things on the cheap, asking too much of too many young players. Middlesbrough are doing the same, and they too are in relegation danger.

But whereas Boro have to rein things back after the gamble on “smashing” the Championship under Garry Monk backfired, a study this week claimed the International Investment Consortium running Barnsley are the division’s joint-second-richest owners. They are far from punching their weight.

Barnsley caretaker manager Adam Murray (Picture: Dean Atkins)

We are into week six of Adam Murray’s caretaker spell and he is as keen as anyone for certainty.

“We need a little bit of clarity now; for me it doesn’t matter either way,” he said after last Saturday’s 4-2 defeat at home to Stoke, which sent his side back to the bottom of the table. There is something to be said for not rushing an appointment, but Stoke showed how it is done.

Even Nathan Jones appeared to think he was a dead man walking until the Potters finally pulled the trigger on him hours before Barnsley’s draw with Bristol City.

But the response since was quick and clear-headed, approaching Preston North End for Alex Neil, getting knocked back, then negotiating with Northern Ireland to release Michael O’Neill, initially on a job-share basis. The bounce was evident at Oakwell last Saturday.

Compare that with Barnsley’s seemingly scattergun trawl through northern Europe. Former Schalke and Stuttgart manager Jens Keller was spotted in the stands against Bristol City amid reports he had been interviewed for the job.

An out-of-work manager should have been relatively easy to acquire.

Gothenburg’s Poya Asbaghi and Ostersunds’s Ian Burchnall have also been talked about. With the Swedish season over, they too ought to have been attainable.

Burchnall started his coaching career in Yorkshire, and Asbaghi is refusing to confirm he turned the job down.

Now, Barnsley are reportedly keen to talk to Gerhard Struber after some impressive Europa League results in his first season at Wolfsberger in his native Austria.

When you sack a manager at the start of an international break, the aim is usually to get a new man in quickly to give him the sort of training-ground time with at least some of his players which is so hard to come by in the Championship.

Barnsley are now eating into a second such pause.

When their programme resumes at Blackburn Rovers a week on Saturday, it will be helter-skelter until 2020.

Barnsley need to jolt into action, if only to avoid the impression its owners are content to sleepwalk back into League One.