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🔎 Inside Scoop: Barnsley

We speak to our latest local journalist covering Good Friday's hosts, Barnsley

1 April 2021

The Royals bring an end to two weeks without a fixture, with a trip North to Oakwell, and ahead of our meeting with the Tykes we spoke to another regional journalist who has been covering their team home and away, in order to get the inside scoop on our Good Friday hosts, 5th-placed Barnsley.

Yorkshire Post football writer Leon Wobschall gives an insight into the latest from a resurgent South Yorkshire side, as we look to get April off to a perfect start when we travel to face Valerien Ismael's men in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

Firstly Leon, thanks for speaking to us, how would you sum up Barnsley’s season so far?

Dramatic, compelling; a rollercoaster ride which is capable of delivering something special. When Gerhard Struber left in October, many fans were fearful of another relegation battle after a slow start to the season. What has happened since under Valerien Ismael has been remarkable. Under him, Barnsley have collected sixty points in 31 matches.

How has this compared to your expectations at the start of the season?

The hope after last season's 'Great Escape' was that Barnsley could maybe consolidate and keep out of the relegation picture and maybe finish in lower mid-table or mid-table at a push. To many that was seen as optimistic and the first priority was reaching fifty points and preserving their Championship status.

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Nobody envisaged anything like the season they are having at all and no-one predicted a play-off tilt. Barnsley have broken all sorts of records this term and are having their best season at this level since 1999-2000.

Barnsley have been in brilliant form since the turn of the year, what do credit for this upturn in fortunes?

Valerien Ismael. He has created a winning culture at Oakwell in double-quick time and all his players, mostly young, hungry and eager to learn, think the world of him and have bought into his ethos.

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The team spirit is outstanding and his Barnsley side are fit, regimented, never-say-die and incessant. Their record in coming from behind to win games is testament to that and his players empty the tank in every game. You don't get an easy game against Barnsley.

That said, that winning run did come to an end as the Tykes fell to a 2-1 South Yorkshire derby defeat last time out against Sheffield Wednesday, how did they look in that one?

They looked a little leggy as Ismael admitted afterwards with the game coming after long road trips and emotional highs at Wycombe and Bournemouth - the game at Wycombe was less than 72 hours earlier.

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It was a game too far in a congested, hectic schedule and Barnsley lost for the first time in 13 - although credit to Wednesday for matching up to Barnsley and coping with their physicality and coming up with a successful game plan. In that regard, the break has come at the perfect time for the Reds to refresh and regroup.

Valerien Ismael has been in charge for 5 months now, how do you reflect on his tenure to date?

Outstanding. He has raised the bar massively and players are coming of age under him. His influence on the side as a former centre-half is seen in the defensive strength of Barnsley, with the likes of Michal Helik and Mads Andersen having excelled.

Young players such as Callum Styles and Callum Brittain have come to the fore under him. Barnsley's gegenpress game plan is clear to see and their vertical, high press football under Ismael has caused a number of teams major problems. Ismael is very much the boss and his players follow his instructions to the letter, but he clearly wants more and believes his players are capable of more.

Watching from afar, what have you made of Reading this season in general, and in the reverse fixture?

I've seen enough of Reading in my time at the Yorkshire Post this season in the games at Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday to know that there are a very capable side on their day with quality in their ranks.

Lucas Joao has matured into one of the Championship's best strikers and has progressed markedly from his time at Hillsborough. I have also been impressed with the likes of Olise, Semedo and Rinomhota and pleasingly, Reading are a side who stick to their footballing principles, but maybe they could finish teams off more often?

Which Barnsley players should Reading fans be keeping an eye out for as your biggest assets on Friday evening?

Daryl Dike has been bang on form and Barnsley fans will be praying that he comes back off international duty with the USA in pristine condition.

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He has scored five goals since arriving on loan from Orlando City and provided a number of assists and looks tailor-made for the Championship. Powerful, quick and direct, he never gives defenders a moment's peace and was comfortably Barnsley's best player v Sheffield Wednesday.

Alex Mowatt is the club's heartbeat in the centre of midfield and he's so important to the club's cause. He has goals in his locker and quality from set-plays and is the team's talisman. There's obviously the goalscoring nous of Cauley Woodrow too.

Lastly what do you hope Barnsley can achieve in their final eight games?

You have to say that play-off participation is theirs to lose, given the position that Barnsley find themselves in. Victories over Reading and Middlesbrough - their next two home games - would go a fair way towards achieving that with Ismael having targeted a 12-point haul to secure that.

No-one is getting carried or losing focus, but given where Barnsley now are, it would be a disappointment if they did not finish in the top six. They are more than capable after winning at the likes of Brentford and Bournemouth and they have been one of the form teams in the division under Ismael for a number of months.


Leon Wobschall is a Football Writer for The Yorkshire Post. 


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