Poya Asbaghi on how he hopes his Barnsley team can represent the values of Reds’ fans

Poya Asbaghi had not officially been Barnsley’s head coach for a day but already he had a good handle on his new home town. Reflecting its people on the Oakwell pitch is, he says, “a must”.

Poya Asbaghi, pictured on the Barnsley training ground on Monday. Picture courtesy of Barnsley FC.

Fortunately the South Yorkshire work ethic overlaps nicely with that of the Swedish-raised Iranian-born refugee.

“I’ve met a lot of fans and got a really good impression from everyone,” said Asbaghi to the media on his first official day in charge.

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“A couple of hours ago Barry Murphy came down and greeted me and that’s special because I know he’s a big legend of the club.

Barnsley's Michal Helik and Toby Sibbick acknowledge the fans after losing to Fulham at Craven Cottage Picture: Jacques Feeney/Getty Images

“I didn’t know too much about the town of Barnsley before I arrived but what I have learned is this is a town with people who haven’t got anything for free in their life. Normally they have to put in a lot of work to get the same outcome as other people do with less effort. That becomes a pretty charming picture of a town that lives for this football club.

“We are in the same position in the league where we have to work maybe twice as hard as others but I’m pretty sure we can have this mentality. Together, with all the supporters, we can beat the odds again because this is what this town is always doing.”

Asbaghi’s life has been a similar struggle since his family fled Iran to escape political persecution aged one. They resettled in Sweden, where he worked his way up through the leagues to winning the Swedish cup as Gothenburg coach, then taking charge of the country’s Under-21 team despite no playing career to speak of, having concentrated on coaching from the age of 19 or 20.

Now, aged 36, he takes charge of his first Barnsley game at home to Swansea City tomorrow.

Poya Asbaghi meets the media for the first time since his appointment as Barnsley head coach. Picture courtesy of Barnsley FC.

With his team above only Derby County, with their hefty points deductions, in the Championship table, Asbaghi was making no bold promises about results. He will simply judge staying up a success, adding “developing the players and a game model, an identity for the team, doesn’t go against staying in the league. You don’t have to choose one or the other.”

But one thing he is prepared to promise is a team that reflects the Barnsley values he has already picked up on.

“That is everything,” he insisted. “That is a must.

“I know there are a lot of people here who go to work every day and when the weekend or the Wednesday comes, that’s what they work for – to put that money to buying a ticket for the game or a shirt to support the team or whatever. I would feel as a fan if I go to work every day and the thing I know can light me up is going to the Barnsley games and I saw my team not giving 100 per cent, of course I would be disappointed.

“I cannot sit here and promise you I will win every game but I hope they will see a team with players that will give everything they can until the final whistle.

“Usually when you work like that and you do that for 90 minutes plus additional time, the victories will come as well.

“Right now it’s such a tough schedule and I have to get to know the players and everything else but my ambition has always been to learn about the club. To do a good job, you have to understand the history of where you are. When I was at IFK (Gothenburg) this was really important, and it’s going to be just as important now.

“After the intense starting period I hope there’s time to get to know the people and the fans.”

Aapo Halme will miss tomorrow’s game with injury and Liam Kitching and Claudio Gomes are doubts, but Asbaghi has been dealt a much kinder hand in terms of injuries than predecessor Markus Schopp was.

He sees himself and Barnsley as a good marriage, not put off by being jilted at the altar in 2019 when he was interviewed for the job, but Gerhard Struber was chosen.

“We knew about each other a couple of years ago and the timing has not always been there but now, finally, we start working with each other,” he commented.

“Since then I was totally focused on IFK and after that the Under-21s. After you have a contact with a club you can always have an extra eye on the club from a distance, so when Barnsley were playing games I was more aware of what they were doing than what Reading were, for example, but it was not more than that. I wasn’t thinking, maybe in two years I will be in Barnsley.

“I’m two years older and I’ve worked in different environments since then.

“Always before I take on new adventures, new challenges, the first question I ask myself is will this job develop me as a coach? If the answer is yes, it’s a job to take.

“There were a lot of aspects I felt could develop me as a coach in terms of how the club works, how they think about football, how they work with young players.

“At the same time, I felt as much as the club can develop me, hopefully I can develop the team.”

Communicating his ideas will not be a problem for the eloquent Asbaghi, and he knows and seems genuinely excited about what he is coming into. There is a lot more to it than that, but it is not a bad starting point.