BARNSLEY’S resounding 2018-19 campaign was characterised by resolve, consistency and drive and perhaps, above all else, belief and togetherness.
We understand we are going to have spells like this in a season and it is up to us to keep people level-headed.Dale Tonge
It may only be two league games into the new season, but a bellwether moment will perhaps arrive in the new-look Reds’ next two home games of the season against fellow promoted sides Charlton and Luton.
After one of the tougher weeks of Daniel Stendel’s regime – with a disappointing derby loss at Sheffield Wednesday preceding a painful and embarrassing home cup exit to Carlisle United – the Reds face a character examination this afternoon with the management team likely to find out a fair bit about the players.
Leadership as well as ability will be a quality that will be sought by watching eyes with new on-pitch lieutenants needing to appear after the exits of Adam Davies, Liam Lindsay, Ethan Pinnock and Kieffer Moore.
Assistant head coach Dale Tonge said: “We have had a couple of meetings with the leaders within the group because sometimes with a new group, people may step forward who you do not expect.
“That has been good to see and, hopefully, the reaction of the weekend will show that.
“We understand we are going to have spells like this in a season and it is up to us to keep people level-headed, while at the same time putting onus on the group saying: ‘look, you are the ones going out there on the pitch.’ There is measured reflection.
“The one thing we cannot fall short on is mentality and attitude within games. We understand we are going to come up against sides who have better squads and teams than us. If we can match them in terms of attitude and endeavour, hopefully on that given day, our quality will take over like it did against Fulham.”
Barnsley’s touch-tight togetherness on and off the pitch played a key part in last season’s joyous campaign with team days out also frequenting the scene – including one trip to a Ninja Warrior assault course in Manchester – and similar exercises are planned this season within a newly-assembled squad who must gel fast.
Tonge added: “It is something we are going to start to doing more of. The Germany and France (pre-season) trips were a massive opportunity and we did a lot of things over there and players had a few down-days where they did their own things, but we did things as a group as well.
“It is something that is going to be ongoing and it is something that the gaffer is massive on.”