Danny Wilson admits his first year back in charge of Barnsley has been an “indifferent” one as he seeks to stabilise a club he once guided into the Premier League.
The 54-year-old – who celebrates his 1,000th game in management on Saturday when Leyton Orient visit Oakwell in League One – ticked off another landmark yesterday in a week of milestones.
Wednesday marked exactly a year since he returned to the club who 18 seasons ago he enjoyed his finest moment in management with.
The best part of two decades and six clubs later, he is once again attempting to gradually transform the fortunes of the South Yorkshire club.
The Premier League might be a pipe dream at present with Barnsley languishing in the bottom half of League One following a slide from the Championship last season that Wilson was unable to arrest.
But with finances tight and an appreciation at Oakwell that a revival will be driven by a greater emphasis on youth, Wilson has sought to put that sea change into practice.
With progress slow, results have suffered, but the club say they remain firmly behind a man who they have entrusted with signing 20 players in the last two transfer windows, with 33 transfer-deals conducted in the summer alone.
Many of those who came in over the summer helped Barnsley overcome a potential banana skin on Tuesday night in the FA Cup second-round replay at the Deva Stadium, when a performance built on discipline and pace, and headlined by two goals by Dale Jennings, accounted for enthusiastic Conference side Chester.
And afterwards, Wilson was able to reflect on the first year of his return.
“It’s been very indifferent, I have to say,” said Wilson.
“We had the disappointment of last year, which was a very difficult situation to come in at but we had a bit of a go.
“But we weren’t good enough, it was as simple as that, and that’s why we’ve ended up doing what we have done. The transition we have had has been massive.
“We’ve had a complete change in approach to what we’re trying to do.
“We’re trying to change the whole ethos of the club and you can’t do that overnight, so you’re going to get frustrations and disappointments, but you’re also going to get highs.
“It’s all about how you deal with them and I’d like to think with the experience I have I’m a bit better equipped to deal with it but it’s not an easy time. You get ups and downs with players as well because you’ve got guys who have never played at the level.
“You just have to take that into consideration and once you can understand it and trust the players that you believe in, then you can move forward.”
Asked if he could believe he had made it to 1,000 games, a jovial Wilson quipped: “Not in this day and age I can’t.
“I tell you what I won’t be doing another thousand!”
One of the keys to Wilson’s longevity during a career in which he managed both Sheffield clubs is his natural instinct to not over-react to certain situations.
The recent run, for instance, is one of many examples of a difficult time for a Barnsley side in transition.
They had not won for five games, including a disappointing draw with Chester at Oakwell in the original tie, before Tuesday night’s 3-0 win.
Wilson said: “I’m not trying to be smarmy about this, but when you’ve been in the game as long as I have you see the day to day difference of opinion from one result to the next, and you can’t get carried away with it.
“We know what we’ve got, we know the reasons at times why we’re not winning games. We think we can remedy it, we hope we can, and there are certain things we have to work on.
“Opinions go up and down every day.
“But you’ve got to keep level-headed and understand what you need to do.
“Whether it’s right or it’s wrong, people will have an opinion on it.”
At least on Tuesday night he saw a performance from his team that he hopes convinces the doubters – and his players – what they are capable of.
What was most encouraging was the performance of full-backs Mason Holgate, who is just 18, and Reece Brown.
“We’ve seen some massive performances; young Mason at right-back was exceptional, Reece Brown at left-back was in an unfamiliar position but did very well,” said Wilson.
“In adversity they showed they were capable of handling it.
“Dale Jennings will get the credit for his goals but he is a big threat with his pace.
“For all the criticism the players have had the last couple of weeks, which they’ve taken squarely on the chin, they responded with a fantastic performance and that’s all we can ask for.
“We’ve shown we’re a good side, that even with one or two players out, we’ve still got some good players in there.
“What’s most important for us going forward is getting some of the players back. The sooner we get one or two back we’ll be a bit more competitive.
“But let’s hope it is a bit of stepping stone for us and can take us closer to that consistent level we’re looking for.”