SHREWD observers will tell you that successful seasons are not necessarily forged on home or away grounds, but in the relentless daily pursuit of excellence on the training pitch.
Daniel Stendel’s reign at Barnsley is still in its relative infancy, but his demand for high standards and matchday intensity in every session in which his players participate has long since been nailed down as non-negotiable.
It is a sign of a winning culture, according to Reds captain Adam Davies – and the fact that those currently in possession of the first-team jerseys are mindful of the sight of competitors breathing down their necks is not inconsequential either.
Davies, who is set to make his 150th league start for Barnsley this evening, has a hungry and talented tyro in Jack Walton who is pushing him on a daily basis.
There is fierce competition elsewhere, most notably in central midfield and in defence, where Adam Jackson was recently handed an elevation into the first-team ahead of Liam Lindsay.
The latter may not have particularly liked the decision, according to Reds assistant head coach Andreas Winkler, but was “understanding” too in his words.
It was a reminder that no one’s position is sacrosanct at Oakwell with players’ performances judged on a daily basis. Every training session clearly counts and is being analysed scrupulously.
Davies said: “It keeps you on your toes and you have to be at it all of the time because the gaffer does not stand for anything less.
“Every day, in training, you have to be at it and working hard and showing him why you deserve your place in the team. It makes you fight for that shirt even more.
“I am sure Liam will bounce back and train hard and try and get back in.”
As for his own daily contest with Walton, he remarked: “We have got a good relationship and push each other in training and it keeps the standard high. Any time he has played he has done well. He keeps me on my toes.”
A milestone appearance for the Reds this evening will be a source of personal pride for Davies, but reflection will arrive much further down the line.
Being part of a second promotion from the third tier in the space of four seasons is the goalkeeper’s prime motivation alongside a desire to be part of another flourishing success story in his time at Oakwell.
The similarities between the class put together by Lee Johnson and polished by Paul Heckingbottom three seasons ago and the current crop are not lost upon the 26-year-old.
Davies, an integral part of that all-conquering line-up and driven group of friends who achieved dual Wembley success in the space of 56 days in 2015-16 and then made waves in the Championship, added: “There definitely are similarities to what we had. There are different characters in each group, but the spirit is there.
“I think you could see that on the weekend where we were 1-0 down and we fought back and stuck together and in the second half it was a really good gritty performance to see the game out and finish it off at the end.”
As for his milestone, he continued: “It is nice to keep wracking the appearances up. When I came here I did not have one league game or any first-team experience at all.
“To have 150 league starts would be nice, but you want more and to be better and better.
“When my time comes up at Barnsley, whenever that may be, it will be nice to be in the records to look back on and show I have had a really good time there.
“I only have a year left here, so we are going to have to talk and see what happens (in the future).
“For the time being my commitment is to get this club back in the Championship and finish the season as strong as we can.”
The Reds have a beleaguered Plymouth Argyle side – currently shorn of confidence and options – to contend with this evening.
The rock-bottom Devonian club are enduring their worst start to a season since 1981-82, having failed to win any of their opening ten league games, and manager Derek Adams is under growing pressure from sections of the disgruntled Argyle support.
The formbook may suggest only one thing, but Reds assistant Winkler is guarding against complacency and is appreciative of the dangers of facing the equivalent of a “wounded animal”.
He said: “It is a good phrase.. If people think we have won before (the game) we will get beaten.
“I think as a coach it does not matter if you are bottom after nine or ten matches or top. Every team is new because I am from Germany.
“This is a professional, physical league and I know you can only win with high quality.”
Last six games: Barnsley DWWDLW Plymouth LLDLLL.
Referee: C Boyeson (East Yorkshire).
Last time: Barnsley 1 Plymouth 3; February 13, 2010; Championship.