Barnsley have a lot to do in the back end of the season if they are to achieve their goals, with the last nine games standing between them and Championship survival.
The Tykes came into this season in high spirits after automatic promotion from League One last term under Daniel Stendel but have since been given a harsh dose of reality in the Championship.
Oakwell has seen a lot of teetering between the second and third tiers in recent years, and this season looks like continuing that pattern, regardless of the best efforts of each man that’s stepped into the dugout.
There have been a lot of talking-points in their campaign so far, both good and bad, but the overriding emotion hasn’t been positive at Oakwell.
As we tackle a lengthy period without action on the pitch, we take a look at their season so far and what we can expect to see in the rest of the season, in this six point opinion…
Firstly, how did Barnsley’s campaign start?
“The goal for the Tykes at the start of the season was to stay in the division and finally consolidate their Championship status, but Daniel Stendel was dealt a sorry hand before a ball was even kicked.
“Four key players were shipped out to rival Championship clubs in Adam Davies, Ethan Pinnock, Liam Lindsay and Kieffer Moore, immediately putting them at a disadvantage.
“Despite this, they managed to claim an opening day 1-0 victory over one of the early promotion favourites in Fulham.
“The euphoria from this start was short-lived as they then went on a terrible winless run, which saw Stendel lose his job as manager following a damning 5-1 defeat to Preston North End.”
Was he deserving of the sack?
“I’m not convinced that it was entirely Stendel’s fault that results slipped but something certainly had to change for Barnsley to get out of the abyss.
“While key players were flogged, Barnsley did poorly in replacing them, as they brought in largely inexperienced players that brought their average age to the point where it was one of the youngest that the Championship has ever seen.
“The mishaps that came from Stendel’s team can be no fault of his own but it’s not surprising that the board went for this decision, as there was no sign of the situation improving.”
Was Struber the right appointment then?
“Barnsley certainly waited for the right man to become available for the job and after at least a month of deliberation, they eventually landed on Austrian Wolfsberger AC boss, Gerhard Struber.
“It seemed a very surprising appointment, given that not many had an awful lot of intel on him outside of the club, but they were confident in his credentials, considering he came from a side in the Europa League to Oakwell.
“Along with the signings they made, appointing Struber had strong indications that the club are going in a long-term direction, rather than putting out fires as they crop up, which is commendable in a way.”
How’s he doing?
“The Tykes still find themselves in deep relegation trouble but there has been a marked difference in their performances, looking much more like a side equipped to fight their way out of trouble.
“Impressive wins away to Fulham and Hull City epitomised the changes he has implemented to the side from a tactical perspective, with Cauley Woodrow sitting deeper and pulling the strings while the pace of Jacob Brown and Conor Chaplin stretches defences.
“In January, it wasn’t a shock to see him turn to his native Austria for signings, bringing in an energetic midfielder in Marcel Ritzmaier, an attacking full-back in Kilian Ludewig and some much-needed experience at centre-back in Michael Sollbauer.
“They’ve managed to halt what looked like an absolute nosedive towards League One, but Struber hasn’t yet managed to close the gap to 21st.”
Can you get 16/16 in this Barnsley quiz?
What’s their state of play for the run-in?
“With nine games to play, Barnsley have it all to do to avoid the drop, as they currently sit rock-bottom on 34 points, seven adrift of safety.
“Back-to-back defeats to Reading and Cardiff City have halted their mini-resurgence of three straight wins and they look like being back to square one as other teams turn the screw.
“Nine games means 27 points are up for grabs and they have some favourable fixtures against teams around them in the run-in, so all hope should not be lost.”
Finally, what is the plan for Barnsley going forward?
“Such an influx of young players coming in and then appointing a manager finding his feet in England points towards this being a transitional period where relegation might not be the end of the world for the board.
“The players that they have signed have definitely got sell-on value for the club and this could be what they are looking to do, but relegation would see Alex Mowatt, Woodrow, Brown and Chaplin all in the shop window.
“The Tykes have a good chance to build a prosperous future in the second division if they can stay up and build on the positives of their squad, refining it with some smart summer business.”