Several Barnsley players have reacted to captain Alex Mowatt’s departure on the expiry of his contract at Oakwell, with the 26-year-old midfielder reportedly set to have a medical at West Brom.
Mowatt was part of a remarkable Tykes side that finished fifth in the Championship last season before their play-off semi-final heartbreak against Swansea, playing his part as he scored eight goals and picked up seven assists last season under Valerien Ismael.
But with Barnsley failing to be promoted under Ismael and the Frenchman joining promotion favourites West Brom after doing such a remarkable job at Oakwell, this was always a move that was likely to happen with the 26-year-old’s expiring contract and the relationship he formed with the now-Baggies manager last term.
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Mowatt isn’t expected to stay a free agent for long, with a move to the Hawthorns set to happen very shortly with a medical already pencilled in. He will become Ismael’s first signing at West Brom, with other deals potentially in the pipeline in the West Midlands now pre-season training has officially started.
For the team on the receiving end, it’s a major blow to their captain with their own manager recently being appointed in Markus Schopp. One of the Austrian’s first tasks at the club will now be to replace the midfielder, with their opening Championship game against Cardiff City just over a month away.
In his farewell Instagram post to Barnsley supporters, Mowatt said: “I would like to thank all the Barnsley fans, players and staff for an amazing four and a half years of ups and downs.
“It has been an honour to captain this incredible club, that I will always hold in my heart.
“All the best for the future. Thank you for the memories.”
With the midfielder being such an influential figure at the club as skipper, it was unsurprising to see several Tykes players send their warmest wishes to him. Forward Carlton Morris joked: “Go well buddy. Really ruined my holidays”, while Callum Brittain said, “Geeeeet out, all the best skip” and Polish international Michael Helik simply put: “Legend”.
Barnsley’s league finish next season will partly be down to their professionalism. Losing someone of Mowatt’s ability and stature in the dressing room will be a blow, especially to some of the younger players, but they had such a fantastic season last year.
They may not be able to reach the heights they did in the 2020/21 season – but they can do a lot better than they did in the campaign before that when they came very close to being relegated – and were only saved in the end by Wigan’s points deduction.
It will now be Schopp’s task to settle the players back down, find a replacement for the departing skipper and strengthen in other key areas. Will they be able to adequately replace Mowatt with a limited budget? Perhaps not, but it’s an early hurdle the new appointment needs to overcome.