The Championship’s fifth best side last term under Valerien Ismael, the Reds currently sit third-from-bottom of the table having lost three on the bounce and won just once in 11 attempts.
Quite naturally, head coach Markus Schopp is bearing the brunt of the discontent among the Oakwell faithful, a fanbase whose expectations have undoubtedly been raised by what their over-achieving team delivered during 2020-21.
Criticism of the Austrian is warranted to a degree. He has changed the way Barnsley play, which is fair enough if the new system works, or there is at least a some suggestion that it might, given time. The issue is, is that the Reds don’t look to have any real direction.
Back-to-back home losses against Nottingham Forest and Millwall have only served to affirm the sense that has been growing during the opening weeks of the season that, under Schopp, the Reds no longer have an identity.
Their high-intensity, full throttle, physical style of blood-and- thunder football under Ismael might not have been the most pleasing on the eye, but it was undeniably as effective and productive as anything witnessed at Oakwell since the late 1990s.
For all but the opening 20 minutes of Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Millwall, they looked pretty lost. Devoid of any ideas going forward, the hosts were totally blunt in the final third.
There was no real purpose about what they did when in possession of the football.
And while centre-halves Michal Helik and Liam Kitching plus goalkeeper Brad Collins all performed reasonably well at the other end of the field, it was more last-ditch heroics than a case of never allowing the visitors a look-in.
Based on their most recent performances, it would not be unfair to describe Barnsley as a rudderless ship, though Reds midfielder Callum Brittain has come out and publicly backed his boss, insisting that some of the blame for the club’s poor start to the campaign lies elsewhere.
For him, although Schopp can “do better”, so can he and his team-mates, as too can the supporters.
“As a player you have always got to back your manager,” the 23-year-old said.
“It’s not just the manager’s job to get results, it’s the players’ job. The players are out on the pitch, they need to produce.
“It is easy to blame the manager, especially after the way things went last year. He knows he needs to do better, I think the staff need to do better, and the players know they need to do better.
“I even think the fans can do better. It was 0-0 in the 80th minute, if the fans really get behind us then maybe we can kick on. It’s disappointing as a player at the moment, I know it is disappointing as a fan as well, everyone wants to win. We don’t go out there wanting to lose.
“I think everyone at this football club needs to come together in the next couple of weeks and start on a fresh page and start picking up results.”
Brittain’s reference to the Barnsley suporters prompted a question about an unsavoury incident which took place on the Oakwell turf a couple of minutes after the full-time whistle.
Captain Cauley Woodrow appeared to become involved in a confrontation with a group of fans in the East Stand and had to be hauled away from the situation by some of his team-mates.
And while Brittain didn’t have much to say on that particular episode, he went on to reveal that he himself had been on the receiving end of verbals from Reds supporters, something he described as “not good enough”.
He said: “I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard about it [Woodrow’s clash].
“I’ve gone over to clap the fans, it’s a minority, but it’s not nice when you’re getting abused. We don’t want to be in the bottom-three at the moment, we don’t want to lose football matches, we all want to win for Barnsley Football Club, it’s not like we are not putting in the effort.
“I thought some of the boys were good [against Millwall] we dug deep and it was disappointing to concede the way that we did, but to get the abuse as players from the fans is not nice.
“It’s not good enough. I personally don’t think it’s good enough, but they want to see results, so it all comes back to that.”
The kind of result that everyone connected with Barnsley so desperately needed looked a genuine possibility for about 20 minutes, with Aaron Leya Iseka, Woodroow and Helik all going close to breaking the deadlock following a bright start by the home side.
Devante Cole then went clean through on goal but failed to beat Bartosz Bialkowski one-on-one and from that point, Millwall were in control.
A couple of decent saves by Collins either side of a superbly-timed tackle by Kitching looked to have earned the Reds a point, before Murray Wallace delivered the victory Millwall’s display warranted when he headed home Jed Wallace’s 89th-minute corner.
Barnsley: Collins; Moon, Helik, Kitching; Brittain, Palmer (Sibbick 55), Styles, B Williams; Leya Iseka (Frieser 70), Woodrow, Cole (Adeboyejo 67). Unused substitutes: Walton, J Williams, Gomes, Oduor.
Millwall: Bialkowski; Ballard, Hutcinson, Cooper; McNamara, Evans (Mitchell 70), Saville, M Wallace; J Wallace, Afobe (Smith 77), Ojo (Bradshaw 70). Unused substitutes: Long, Kieftenbeld, Pearce, Leonard.
Referee: D Webb (Durham).