THE emotions ahead of Barnsley’s latest meeting with Fulham are at the polar opposite to the feelings of just 196 days ago.
Then, there was a modicum of new-season hope that you associate with many supporters of a promoted club, with ebullient co-chairman Paul Conway attempting to capture the mood in his eve-of-season declaration that Barnsley could look back on their ‘best transfer window ever’.
We believe in the next time and that in 14 games, there are 42 points and we can win.Gerhard Struber
It referenced the acquisition of a plethora of young talents wholly unproven at second-tier level in a Championship which has a reputation for being unforgiving.
Youthful vigour and exuberance may have prevailed on that intoxicating opening day against the Cottagers, but it proved the falsest of dawns.
The realists who doubted the validity of Conway’s comments have been emphatically proved right since.
His words possess a hollow and discredited feel and look like providing a sad epitaph to a season which has been blighted by defensive deficiencies and naive decisions on the pitch and off it.
Barnsley are not yet consigned to a return to League One, but the bookies are likely to be paying out shortly.
After some early optimism under Gerhard Struber, incorporating a five-match unbeaten home sequence at the start of his tenure, Barnsley are haemorrhaging defeats and belief fast.
As befits a listing side, the footballing fates are not kind.
Today, they visit a promotion-chasing Fulham side who will be intent on a spot of revenge.
Barnsley may have surprised leaders West Brom by registering two draws against them this term, but avoiding defeat at Craven Cottage today – given the current low ebb that the Reds find themselves in – would surpass those two results.
For Struber, the situation goes down to two choices for Barnsley, propping up the table and effectively 10 points adrift of safety – fight or flight.
The Austrian head coach, who will hand a breather to under-fire defender Mads Andersen today, said: “We have two choices.
“We believe in the next time and that in 14 games, there are 42 points and we can win.
“Or we give up – and I never give up. We believe in our team and our chance. We will give all that we can in our remaining games, this is our only chance.
“We need a run and I hope and believe we can start it.”
In Barnsley’s predicament, talk remains cheap and only the currency of victories will arouse the enthusiasm of an ever-growing section of the club’s fanbase, who are growing disaffected and dispirited by events at the club, on and off the pitch, by every passing defeat.
Offering a players’ perspective on a grave situation, midfielder Mike Bahre acknowledged: “We are at the bottom of the league; it does not look good for us at the moment.
“But we have proven so many times that we can win games and we are good enough to win games. I know not many people believe in us to stay in the league, but we know we are good enough to play in the Championship and we will fight until the last match.”