How tunnel vision is helping Barnsley to focus on promotion

‘Business as usual’ was the message coming out of Barnsley Football Club yesterday.

Daniel Stendel has taken training as normal the last two days and the club are talking about, and focusing on, nothing but the task of winning promotion to the Championship.

Even Dale Tonge conducted pre-match press conference duties as the assistant to Stendel always has during the German’s first season in charge, much to the disappointment of an expanded media pack hungry for an insight into what happened in the tunnel following Saturday’s League One encounter between Barnsley and Fleetwood.

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Stendel has not been seen in public since the post-match incident with opposing Fleetwood manager Joey Barton that has dominated the headlines.

On track: Mike Bahre celebrates his opening goal with Cameron McGeehan before Barnsley progress to a 4-2 win over Fleetwood Town. Picture: Scott Merrylees

On Tuesday, Barnsley announced that they had lodged formal complaints with both the English Football League and the Football Association over the alleged incident.

Yesterday, police confirmed they had made an arrest, before the man was released on bail.

A force spokesman said: “Officers investigating an incident at Barnsley Football Club on Saturday 13 April 2019 have arrested a man on suspicion of racially aggravated public order offence and racially aggravated assault. The man attended at a police station and was arrested today, Wednesday 17 April.

“The incident is believed to have taken place in the tunnel around 5pm, following the conclusion of Barnsley’s match against Fleetwood Town, and left one man with facial injuries.”

Prior to that, Barnsley’s pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow’s Oakwell date with Shrewsbury, was the first chance anyone who might have been party to events had of taking the general public inside the tunnel.

Not that Barnsley, Tonge or goalkeeper Adam Davies were willing to pour any fuel on the fire.

“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to comment on the alleged incident while the police investigation is ongoing,” said Tonge, reading from a pre-arranged statement and conducting himself in a dignified manner. “Obviously, the club has released a statement so we’ve got to leave it there.”

Barnsley are currently locked in a four-way battle for the second automatic promotion spot from League One ahead of a potentially decisive Easter in which they host Shrewsbury before visiting Plymouth Argyle on Bank Holiday Monday.

Tonge added: “It’s not been a distraction. The gaffer is a professional, it is something that happens day in, day out in football. There may have been a few more television cameras around but they’ve not been in training.

“The gaffer doesn’t change whether we win or lose, he’s still very enthusiastic, very energetic, so I didn’t expect anything to change him this week.

“He’s a consumate professional. He’s led from the front and kept the focus on football.”

Goalkeeper Davies added: “As players, we’ve just stuck to what we do. We just concentrate on the football.

“He (Stendel) came in on Tuesday and was the exact same person, so I wouldn’t worry too much about him.”

The police statement continued: “Officers are particularly keen to speak to anyone who may have caught the incident on camera or who may have any mobile phone footage immediately before or after the incident occurred.”