Barnsley FC: Why evolution not revolution is best way forward for Reds in search for new coach – Stuart Rayner
It does not make him a bad manager but even after only 125 days, it was time to move on. The players were struggling to hide their unhappiness, as shown by a few alarmingly frank interviews, and the fans were not trying to. Without either, an already difficult job beset by bad luck became near-impossible.
But just because Barnsley picked the wrong man at the wrong time does not mean “the model” failed too.
What Schopp seemed to lack was a clear idea of where he was going and how to get there. Barnsley could not be accused of that. Now is not time to change path, just to do it better.
The best clubs know their direction. Methods evolve, but with a clear sense of purpose. Manchester City were built along Pep Guardiola lines even before they signed him, Liverpool bear the imprint of Jurgen Klopp’s “heavy metal” football.
Contrast that with Tottenham Hotspur sacking Jose Mourinho (partly) because they did not like his football, then replacing him with a Mourinho disciple – albeit Nuno Espirito Santo was about their 23rd choice – only to change a few weeks after he was Premier League manager of the month, or Manchester United spending heavily on a winger and moving Bradfordian Mason Greenwood to centre-forward, only to rip up the plan as soon as they got jealous of Manchester City trying to sign Cristiano Ronaldo.
Harrogate Town try to play a version of the 4-4-2 football Simon Weaver used to watch from the Hillsborough terraces, Rotherham United are based around lots of crosses into the box and Sheffield United on patient, possession-based lines.
From the moment Valerien Ismael walked into Oakwell a little over a year ago, it was clear what he wanted. His tactics were like his personality – direct.
When he speaks, he gets his message across firmly and clearly, even in his third language. Schopp’s press conferences were also a reflection of him – friendly, but not always straight to the point.
Ismael football was not Schopp’s cup of tea, but having seen Barnsley enjoy their best season since the Danny Wilson days, he did not want to abandon it completely. The idea was to plot a course between Gerhard Struber’s possession-based football and Ismael’s route one but he got lost in no man’s land.
Schopp stuck to a formation – Ismael’s – but that was not the point. Marcelo Bielsa changes Leeds United’s all the time.
Three-four-three is not a way of playing, it is where blokes stand to start the process. Without a clear plan about what to do when the whistle blows it does not make you the Aristotle of footballing “philosophy”.
The sense that Darren Moore is still searching for his way – chopping and changing personnel and formations, lining up for trendy short goal-kicks then humping the ball more often than not – is undermining him at Sheffield Wednesday.
If Tuesday’s 3-0 victory over Sunderland can be the blueprint win we hope they will have a “roadmap” to use another horrible term handy to those of you playing buzzword bingo whilst reading this column.
For Barnsley to lose their way too now would be a big mistake and a surprising one.
The bookmaker’s odds seemed to be drawn up in front of a map of South Yorkshire without any knowledge of how the Reds operates. A map of Austria would have been better. The chief executive has changed since the summer so the contacts book may have too but the principles are the same.
The Barnsley model got a bit more praise than it ought to have when things went well last season. It was the model that frustrated Daniel Stendel and Struber to the point where they wanted to leave, and denied Schopp the experienced central midfielder he needed to make up for the loss of Alex Mowatt.
Khaled El-Ahmad’s argument that only buying young players was not a problem because some are quite experienced would carry more weight had Obbi Oulare, Aaron Leya Iseka, Josh Benson, Claudio Gomes or Remy Vita been. At 26, Devante Cole has games under his belt but not in the Championship.
But with a little tweaking, the general course is a good one. So, for that matter, is the opposite one. It is about the clarity of purpose, then identifying the man to make it work.
Barnsley will want a coach, not a manager. Given how his relationship with Sheffield United’s board broke down, it is not a job for Chris Wilder.
They will want a builder, not a firefighter. Intensity and energy will not be optional extras.
In early November, in a Championship table where asterisks and points deductions make staying up not easy but easier, there is plenty of time to get back on track.