Barnsley FC in danger of alienating the fans - Leon Wobschall

IN the short-term, events in January are likely to decide Barnsley’s Championship fate after an atrocious 2021-22 season thus far.

Yet something more fundamental is also at stake.

It may well also represent the tipping point in the fans’ relationship with the club’s hierarchy.

An appalling first half of the campaign has seen the Reds win just twice in 24 sorry league matches. It is as if last season never existed.

Target: Barnsley
captain Cauley Woodrow. 
Picture: Tony JohnsonTarget: Barnsley
captain Cauley Woodrow. 
Picture: Tony Johnson
Target: Barnsley captain Cauley Woodrow. Picture: Tony Johnson
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It has led to understandable dissatisfaction and anger. It is not exclusively down to results, more the drip-drip effect of the Chien Lee and Paul Conway era.

Supporters whose financial backing during the Covid-ravaged campaign of 2019-20 and in the following season was outstanding deserve much better.

Alongside some awful results this season, there was the controversial decision to close the West Stand, more reports about a potential groundshare elsewhere, lamentable player recruitment and the departure of several valued members of staff.

There was also the visa fiasco surrounding the signings of Obbi Oulare and Aaron Leya Iseka. In fairness, it was down to Government issues as opposed to those at Barnsley. It was still a mess.

TIME KEEPING: Barnsley head coach Poya Asbaghi.  Picture Tony JohnsonTIME KEEPING: Barnsley head coach Poya Asbaghi.  Picture Tony Johnson
TIME KEEPING: Barnsley head coach Poya Asbaghi. Picture Tony Johnson
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On the pitch, the expensive outlay to bring both in has backfired pretty spectacularly.

Supporters would be forgiven for thinking what happens next?

The answer is probably some significant departures as Barnsley’s owners take the pragmatic decision to bring in some cash and sanction some key sales.

Cauley Woodrow is currently injured. Should he return to fitness, the Reds captain – one of the club’s top earners – would have his admirers at the right price.

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Ditto Michal Helik, Mads Andersen, Callum Brittain and Callum Styles, while the form of goalkeeper Brad Collins is also surely likely to resonate on the radar of Championship rivals.

Not for the first time, fans are openly stating the following questions: Do the club possess ambition other than to develop emerging players and sell them on for profit at a future date?

Is rising up the league ladder a secondary concern?

This coming from a club who decided to deviate away from a successful playing style under Valerien Ismael as they received no bids for their leading players.

The exit of a couple of the club’s big-hitters would effectively be akin to an admission that the club are pretty much preparing for life back in League One in 2022-23.

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Barnsley’s grim Championship statistics may send a shiver down the spine of every Reds supporter, yet there is an even greater fear further ahead.

The problem, in the medium term, would surely be which players would be present to enable Barnsley to rebuild next season in the event of relegation, with several players likely to leave the club in its wake.

The likes of Kieffer Moore, Adam Davies, Ethan Pinnock, Liam Lindsay and Cameron McGeehan all remained at Oakwell following relegation in 2017-18 and provided the club with a strong spine in the following campaign. A season which, of course, ended in promotion straight back to the second tier.

Taking away the Reds’ current main core of players, who is there underneath if they go? Not too many with Barnsley looking to be heading for transition should they return to League One – a division which is getting tougher than ever to get out of these days.

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Barnsley are comfortably the lowest scorers in the Championship and their midfield have contributed a derisory one goal between them this season. Let that sink in – one goal.

The middle of the park is not strong enough, as it stands, to cope with Championship life. The existing players need help in that regard with Alex Mowatt having never been replaced, in truth.

Whether that happens is another thing entirely, with the club’s recent decision to allow Herbie Kane to remain at Oxford United for the rest of the season and sign a loan extension also provoking a fair bit of ire.

Two years ago, Barnsley made the sensible decision to bring in the experienced Michael Sollbauer when they required an old head at the back to provide a fresh option and it reaped a harvest with the Austrian playing a leading role in the ‘Great Escape.’

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Barnsley do not need one experienced player in the engine room, but two with no combination having worked in 21-22, playing the current style. Teams who do not sort out midfield do not survive at this unforgiving level.

It is one of many concerns for Barnsley’s long-suffering supporters. Increasing numbers are getting more fed up and disillusioned by the passing week and their loyalty is being stretched to the limit.

A bad January and patience might just snap among many.

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