Why Barnsley FC's difficulties pale into insignificance for Darrell Clarke given his lower-league experiences

TAKING over a Barnsley side who, by common consent, have lost most of their best players from last season would not be for everyone.

Many managers might think twice, to be honest. A case of right job, wrong time maybe.

Darrell Clarke has been around the block long enough in his managerial career to make up his own mind.

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He will know that turning around the fortunes of a Reds squad who lost their mojo in the final third of last term and making them a competitive force once again at the sharp end of a League One cast which promises to be very strong in 2024-25 will not be straightforward.

Barnsley head coach Darrell Clarke. Picture courtesy of Barnsley FC.Barnsley head coach Darrell Clarke. Picture courtesy of Barnsley FC.
Barnsley head coach Darrell Clarke. Picture courtesy of Barnsley FC.

Equally, one thing that Clarke cannot be accused of in his managerial career to date is shirking a challenge and it’s just as well in terms of his new job.

The 46-year-old has experienced vicissitudes on and off the pitch at several of his former clubs.

Like the Cheltenham Town side who took over in late September. They did not muster a goal in their first 11 games and had just one point to their name, but almost performed a miracle by staying up in League One.

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That helps to explain why he will back himself at Oakwell. The sketch is hardly as scary.

Clarke said: “At Bristol Rovers, I had one (training) pitch and at Cheltenham, there was no hydrotherapy (facilities) and the budget was bottom six (in EFL).

"I have had to work in different circumstances and I believe this is my first proper opportunity. I want to grasp that with two hands. I am not going to say I am going to do this and that, but I will give it my absolute best as it’s a club that certainly deserves to be playing higher.”

One thing that he will certainly be able to handle is expectation and the ability to gain fans respect and deliver a product they will like on the pitch.

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If it means proving his adaptability, in terms of tactics and approach, that’s fine as well.

He continued: “Going back to Bristol Rovers when we were in the non league, try managing them when they are non-league with their support base as well..

"What I’d say is that as a head coach and manager, I’ve gone over 600 games now with different experiences at different clubs.

"But I am a tracksuit manager who likes to get his teams right at it and get after teams. At Barnsley, that’s what we have to do and produce a product that’s on the front foot with good press and a way of playing which gets our fans with their bums off their seats.

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"I got into Cheltenham and we hadn’t scored a goal for 11 games and all of a sudden, we started picking some wins up and the fans started buying into that and enjoying their football. I had to find different ways at Cheltenham as I have at other clubs.

"At Barnsley, we have the opportunity to be able to build that team to be able to get out of that league.”

After going agonisingly close to completing a remarkable act of relegation escapology at Cheltenham, it’s easy to see why mentality is something that Clarke is big on in terms of the teams and players who represent him.

He said: "It’s a non-negotiable for me. Working with younger players, you are trying to develop that mentality to make sure they pick up that quick enough.

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"Building mental strength is a must; a desire to know you are never beaten and making sure you are giving absolutely everything. I don’t care if I am stretching my players off the pitch because they have worked that hard. That’s what we have to be about, but must be about more than that as well.”