Why Valerien Ismael's exit from Barnsley FC was always a case of when and not if

IT was inside the West Stand at Swansea City's Liberty Stadium one late spring Saturday evening when you first knew.

Head coach Valerien Ismael speaking to the press after Barnsley's narrow 2-1 aggregate loss in their Championship play-off semi-final, spoke of his justifiable pride at the achievements of his brave Reds' side - the youngest squad in the division at a club with one of the smallest budgets - and thanked everyone at the club for their total dedication and commitment during an epic adventure.

Ismael, whose move to West Brom was completed on Thursday afternoon - added that it was now 'time to reflect' and go on holiday - and he and his squad had certainly earned that.

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But as he spoke, with his own personal media representative in close proximity, it had the air of a valedictory speech. The body language enhanced that view.

Valerien Ismael.

Tellingly, when asked about the prospects of Barnsley's squad staying together next season, he stated that 'success makes you sexy'.

He did not mention it, but it also applies to head coaches as well by definition with the Frenchman having now left Oakwell after less than a season in charge, just eight months in fact.

It was always a case of when, not if, Ismael - who produced arguably the story of the 2020-21 Championship season - would be targeted by a rival club, given his exploits and the fact that he had a release clause inserted into his deal.

A similar clause had been inserted into Gerhard Struber's contract which brought him to Oakwell towards the end of 2019. It was a way of attracting him from the continent in the first place and the same applied to Ismael.

Even amid the immediate euphoria of Barnsley's astonishing last-gasp victory at Brentford last July, which heroically preserved their Championship status and the tears and emotion which Struber succumbed to on that night, you wondered deep down about about the Austrian's future, which he remained coy about following that unforgettable occasion at Griffin Park.

He stayed, but only until early October. Just two and a half months later.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post last autumn, Reds chief executive officer Dane Murphy said: "One of the ways to get Gerhard on board was to have a release clause.

"To be honest, I am not totally against them. If a coach does really well, it brings us a step forward and it is (ultimately), the decision of the coach in the end if he wants to move on.

"If you want a coach to be here and really continue to grow the club, he has to want to be here.

"If the clause is such an amount that it can really benefit the club financially and for its reinvestment in the team, it makes sense."

It is not just players and head coaches who can be poached, but also chief executives and backroom staff.

Compounding the news about Ismael's departure is the fact that Murphy himself has been head-hunted by Nottingham Forest, with his contract at Oakwell running out at the end of June.

It is incredible to think that it's just 34 days on from that afternoon in Wales when Barnsley were one game away from reaching a Wembley final - and a potential shot at a pot of gold to reach the Premier League.

Today, it seems so long ago as the Reds prepare to start pre-season and the next chapter in 2021-22.