Barnsley FC’s Michal Helik and Mads Andersen fronting up in Championship survival fight

IT will come as no surprise to anyone who knows them that Michal Helik and his centre-half partner and good friend Mads Andersen are fronting up amid Barnsley’s pitch to give themselves a fighting chance of Championship survival.

Not just in the way that most would imagine either.

The pair’s defensive credentials speak for themselves. Helik is an international defender for Poland, while Andersen has the wherewithal to be a contender one day for his own country in Denmark if his development continues in the next couple of years.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

A number of established Premier League players including Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen, Crystal Palace’s Joachim Andersen and Jannik Vestergaard, who plays for Leicester City are currently blocking Andersen’s way alongside the Dane’s peerless captain in the shape of Simon Kjaer, a leader on the pitch and off it.

Barnsley leaders: Mads Andersen celebrates scoring against Middlesbrough with Carlton Morris and Michal Helik. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

But at 24, time is still on Andersen’s side.

Despite Barnsley’s relegation-threatened position, the stock of Helik and Andersen remains at a decent level and they still command respect. They would get into the vast majority of second-tier sides and whether the Reds stave off the drop or not, it would not constitute the biggest shock if leading Championship sides express interest in the summer. There would probably be interest elsewhere as well.

That is for another day. In the here and now, the duo represent the goods at the back in Barnsley’s latest safety mission and the future can wait.

Their form, give or take the odd game, has been pretty consistent under Poya Asbaghi. They have taken responsibilty on the pitch – as you must in a position like Barnsley’s – and off it.

Barnsley's Michal Helik (left) and Mads Andersen warm-up before the Sky Bet Championship match at Oakwell (Picture: PA)

After the disappointing loss at Derby earlier this month, Helik faced the music when speaking to the press after.

Andersen, captain in the absence of Cauley Woodrow, did the same after the cruel recent home draw with Stoke City and following Saturday’s deflating derby setback at Sheffield United in a weekend which was compounded by shock victories for relegation rivals Reading and Peterborough United.

Those teams still, of course, must visit Oakwell next month.

Both defenders probably never particularly felt like addressing the media, but saw it as their duty and showed leadership and also displayed an element of care.

For Barnsley to save their season, they will rely heavily on their leading lights at the back, alongside their talisman up front in Carlton Morris.

He is another player who would surely secure a starting spot in the line-ups of many fellow Championship sides.

As for the importance of Helik and Andersen, head coach Asbaghi is in no doubt.

“They are really important players and they are the backbone of this team,” he observed.

“They are really good defenders and they are fantastic characters and you cannot ask for anything more in terms of how players take their own responsibility outside of the pitch and how they also contribute on the pitch.

“They are really, really good football players and have a good chemistry between them.

“They get along really well outside of the pitch and you can see that chemistry that they have as friends and also have that in their partnership on the pitch and that is a really vital part for us.”