Exciting times ahead at Oakwell pledges Robins

MARK Robins is aiming to bridge the Championship's financial divide with Barnsley.

The Tykes made history 13 years ago when winning promotion to the top flight but have now given up the tag of 'smallest Premier League club' to Blackpool.

Ironically, the Seasiders lost both home and away to Barnsley last season but still finished 12 places and 16 points higher up the Championship table.

Some will always argue that the league table never lies but a final finish of 18th was hardly a true reflection of the progress made under Robins.

Bottom of the league on his arrival, the Tykes climbed to the dizzy heights of ninth spot by mid-March.

The final 10 games of the season, however, were a massive anti-climax with Robins far from happy and even using the word 'garbage' to describe one performance.

Now, after a summer shake-up, the former Manchester United striker is confident of enjoying a 'good season' ahead and appears undaunted by the greater spending power at other clubs in the division.

"Blackpool should serve as an inspiration to everybody," said Robins. "Our squad is smaller this season and we have trimmed our wage bill but we are healthy.

"Over half the teams in this league have been in the Premiership, we have also got Leeds and big, big clubs. It makes sense to say they will have more resources than we do.

"There is a direct correlation between what you spend and where you finish," he added. "But we have to make sure that we are doing things the right way and try to make a mockery of those stats."

Barnsley owner Patrick Cryne is a lifelong supporter who believes it is still possible to push for promotion without taking unnecessary financial risks.

"I am happy with the backing I receive from Patrick," admits Robins. "We have an amount to spend and if Patrick can do it, he will do it. The budget here is relative to the amount of supporters you get through the turnstiles and what you can generate besides."

The Tykes averaged just under 13,000 per game at Oakwell last season but are hoping that a good start to the season will help generate bigger attendances.

"It remains to be seen whether we have a stronger squad, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating," said Robins cautiously. "We will know after the first 15 games of the season how it may go but it is an interesting and exciting time because we are an 'unknown quantity.'

"Everybody sets out at this stage of the season with the idea that this is going to be their year. There are 24 teams chasing three positions that count the most and you always want to be one of those teams at the start of the season.

"I think, realistically, we want to improve on our performances last year. That is our target. We want to improve on last season in whichever way that might be – points tally, amount of games won, away or at home. If we build on what we did last season, that will be great."

By reintroducing the club's reserve team this season, Robins is hoping to improve the quality and quantity of youngsters emerging from the club's Academy. Players such as Reuben Noble-Lazarus, Jamal Adam and Luke Potter have already started to show signs of promise.

"It was important to set up the reserve team again because that is the intermediate step. When you are playing with more experienced players, you can't help but learn," he said.

The Tykes were unable to meet the wage demands of their leading marksman, Daniel Bogdanovic, who joined Sheffield United and have also parted company with Brazilian midfielder Anderson De Silva.

But Robins has pulled off a number of eye-catching deals including the capture yesterday of Argentinian striker Jeronimo Morales Neumann, who had been released by Estudiantes.

"Jeronimo will bring something extra to our attack," said Robins. "He has pace and can play anywhere across the front. He is an exciting player and one we can nurture and bring him on."

Robins is also ready to hand veteran striker Michael Boulding a short-term deal after he offered to play for free.

Boulding, 34, was released by Bradford City this summer and is desperate for another opportunity to play Championship football.

"We had specific targets in mind and have been able to secure the majority," he said. "We have brought in seven or eight players and there is not a massive amount left to do

"I still have positions to fill but there won't be any knee-jerk signings. We have a good group of players who are hungry ambitious and want to improve. There are good signs and I am sure we will have a good season. We have to make sure we are solid and difficult to beat but I would also like us to be able to break teams down by being clever."

Ins and Outs

IN: Jeronimo Morales Neumann (Estudiantes), Diego Arismendi (Stoke City, loan), Jim O'Brien (Motherwell), Jason Shackell (Wolves) pictured, Goran Lovre (FC Groningen), Liam Dickinson (Brighton), Jay McEveley (Derby County).

OUT: Daniel Bogdanovic (Sheffield United), Rob Kozluk (Sheffield United), Darren Moore (Burton Albion), Anderson de Silva, Jon Macken, Michael Coulson, Simon Heslop (Oxford United), O'Neil Thompson (Hereford United, loan)

Last season: 18th, Championship.

YP Verdict: 10th. Although Barnsley have strengthened over the summer, there are still plenty of clubs in the Championship who are better equipped to push for the Premier League. Importantly, there is now no reason why the Tykes should struggle; they have a bright young manager who has been given the opportunity to mould his own side by a prudent owner. Money, of course, does not guarantee success. Team spirit goes a long way and both Blackpool and Burnley have shown it possible for so-called smaller clubs to win promotion in the last two seasons. Play-off qualification is not beyond Barnsley but it is more likely that they will just fall short.