Nottingham Forest v Barnsley: Defender Mads Anderson is honoured to lead Barnsley in fight against relegation

Mads Andersen is only 24 years-old but the Danish centre-back has been marked out as one of the leaders an inexperienced Barnsley need in their fight against Championship relegation.

Leadership material: Young Barnsley defender Mads Andersen will captain the side against Forest tonight. (Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)
Leadership material: Young Barnsley defender Mads Andersen will captain the side against Forest tonight. (Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)

With Cauley Woodrow recovering from knee surgery, the captain’s armband passed to Andersen for Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Birmingham City, and is set to stay with him for tonight’s trip to Nottingham Forest.

Ninety league appearances might be considered too little experience to lead many teams but this is Barnsley, and Andersen’s nous is not about the number of games played, but the type.

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He is one of those in the squad who knows how to pull off an unlikely escape from relegation having done so under Gerhard Struber two years ago, albeit a rerun now would be less plausible still.

Waiting game: Barnsley manager Poya Asbaghi is recovering from illness but is confident of making the trip to Nottingham. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire.

Last season started in the relegation zone too, only for Valerien Ismael to haul Barnsley into the play-offs.

It is experience even the coach Poya Asbaghi – one of many fitness doubts for today’s game, in his case with illness – does not have.

The embarrassing eloquence so many foreign footballers speak English with only highlights the intelligence Andersen brings to Oakwell, and the biggest lesson he took from Struber’s great escape was to look after No 1 first.

“I cope with it by giving even more from myself,” he explains. “I have to be more ready in training, communicating more, but I also focus a lot on keeping myself calm. You can have a good game or a bad game but as long as I’m in control of my own feelings, that’s how I perform my best.

“In this situation you have to give out positivity but also calm to give energy to your surroundings.

“You have to live your life from the inside out, not the outside in. You cannot let everything out, you control your behaviour.”

Despite the “big, big honour” of captaincy, Andersen says he is not a shouter, and tried not to be any different at St Andrew’s last week, but he is not averse to a quiet word with a team-mate to pass on what he has learnt.

“If I can see somebody needs it, I want to be there for him,” he says.

“We still have a few players who were here in my first season and experienced it but I’m trying to behave professionally and lead in that way so they can follow.

“I know how it is to be at the bottom and I know how it is to be at the top. You have to keep going. There’s a new game every three or four days.

“I’ve not so much spoken to (Asbaghi) about my experience, more what I can do to help the people in the team.

“I know what to do and I have to share it with the others so they know what they should do and when we’re in a game everything’s clear and we can get the best performance possible.”

Asbaghi had to sit out yesterday’s press conference – and the training session that preceded it – with a sore throat but after negative Covid-19 tests on Sunday and Monday, he is optimistic of being in the dugout this evening.

Instead he left right-hand man Ferran Sibila to do his talking.

Sibila is very keen to learn from the likes of Andersen as he looks to improve on the “small margins” he thinks are holding Barnsley back.

“In a football team there is always communication and everybody has to learn from everybody,” he explains.

“No one has the right answer - you see coaches winning a league and the next year getting fired. In that sense everybody needs to learn from each other and if we help each other, we can win.

“The relationship between the players is good, they can talk to each other and try to solve things together.”

Sibila felt his team “stepped up” a level at Birmingham but the fact is they lost, as they have every match they have played away from Oakwell under Asbaghi, bar the 0-0 draw at relegation rivals Peterborough United.

Bottom of the division, eight points from safety, the injury-hit Reds need to up their game again versus one of the Championship’s best footballing sides.

“Sometimes in football results don’t show everything,” insists Sibila. “All the players are working well, everybody is taking care of their bodies, coming to training and training 100 per cent.

“We need to look at the things we have to improve and look at the things we are doing well and keep doing them.

“If we are doing some good things we need to be honest about it but we cannot say you are better than you are. We have to explain the reasons you are at this level and try to give confidence that you as a player are able to succeed at this level.

“They (Forest) beat Arsenal (in the FA Cup) so Barnsley can win against Nottingham.

“It’s time for them to lose!”

Last six games: Nottingham Forest WWWLLW; Barnsley LDLDLD

Referee: M Salisbury (Lancashire)

Last time: Nottingham Forest 0 Barnsley 0, January 30, 2021.