Barnsley FC boss Poya Asbaghi planning for January transfer window

THE fear that several of Barnsley’s ‘big-hitters’ could leave Oakwell during a winter transfer window has been an omnipresent one among the club’s fanbase for a number of years.

Barnsley boss Poya Asbaghi. Picture Bruce Rollinson
Barnsley boss Poya Asbaghi. Picture Bruce Rollinson

With just nine days to go until the latest January market opens for business, it is something akin to Groundhog Day with head coach Poya Asbaghi also wise to the notion that some significant departures would seriously impact upon the Reds’ chances of Championship survival, which already look problematic.

Results may not have necessarily shown it yet, but there has been incremental progress under Asbaghi, even if he is without a win in five matches in charge.

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Speak to most Barnsley players and the talk is uniformly of him changing the mood and culture in training and providing players with greater clarity.

Those to have publicly extolled the virtues of the 36-year-old include Reds captain Cauley Woodrow, who is being linked with a reunion with ex-Barnsley head coach Valerien Ismael at West Brom in the new year.

An exit, or two, of Woodrow, Brad Collins, Mads Andersen and Michal Helik – four saleable assets on Barnsley’s books – would make Asbaghi’s job significantly harder than it already is. If that is possible.

On the importance of the Reds retaining their key players, Asbaghi commented: “I am not saying it is a must, but it is a good way of improving.

“I think we have reached a point where more and more are seeing what we want to do and the players are speaking the same language more on the pitch.

“I hope we will see this more and more and we have shown things in glimpses and short periods. But I want us to show it for a full game and consecutive games and to be able to do that, continuity plays a big part.

“In the end, if we make too many changes and too many big players leave, then it will take away continuity. Of course, it is part of football and you have to adapt, but I am pretty sure we will not reach that point either.”

Woodrow has yet to return to training after missing last Friday’s home game with West Brom with a knee injury, with the club’s medical staff waiting to see how he responds following an injection.

Specifically on the importance of Woodrow and the link with a move to the Midlands, he continued: “I will not discuss individual players’ situations. But Cauley is our captain and an important player in the locker room, of course.

“I have got to know him for one month, having worked with him and he is a super professional who always comes in and gives 100 per cent and helps his team-mates give 100 per cent.

“And he is a talented footballer; that’s all I can say about him and I cannot discuss about other things.

“We need to find more goals and score more goals and that is something everyone is aware of. We need to score more goals to stay in this league and I hope the most efficient way is to improve the players in our squad and that is my biggest ambition right now.

“If we get more goals by a player arriving from the outside, that’s another discussion and I will not go into that discussion until another player is here.”

Asbaghi’s desire to focus purely on what he can control is well-founded. He is making a difference on the training ground on a day to day level, but the clock is against him and Barnsley require some hope via results fast.

With just two wins in 23 league matches, the second-from-bottom Reds are seven points adrift of the side just outside of the relegation zone in Reading, having played a game more.

It is an unenviable position at Christmas for the Oakwell outfit, who are now preparing for a tough away double header against Blackburn Rovers and Nottingham Forest, with their scheduled Boxing Day home game against Stoke City being postponed earlier this week due to a number of Covid cases at the Potteries club.

For a seasoned Championship operator, let alone a comparative ‘rookie’ in Asbaghi, the task would be a colossal one.

The 36-year-old, who will probably not need telling twice that Barnsley have yet to win on the road so far this term, said: “Even though I am relatively young, I have had tasks which I would see as pretty challenging back home in Sweden.

“But I would say that if we stay in the league with Barnsley, it would be my biggest achievement.

“The first win would be massive and you cannot underestimate the psychological effect of winning a football game.

“But you cannot talk about it too much and it is more about working all we can to make sure we end up there. Then when that happens, we’ll get the feeling and things will go on then by itself. I am pretty sure about that, but we cannot wait for it to happen.”

Meanwhile, Asbaghi confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that two first-team players have tested positive for Covid alongside a staff member.

It follows the news that a squad player had tested positive last Tuesday (December 14).

New rules mean that players with negative lateral flow results on day six and seven of their self-isolation period and are vaccinated will no longer have to self-isolate for 10 days.

Barnsley are due to return to action at Blackburn on Wednesday (December 29).