Barnsley centre-back Liam Kitching believes his side have more than enough quality in their squad to remain afloat in the Championship this term, speaking on the BBC’s Football Heaven show.
The Tykes currently find themselves sitting in 23rd place in the second tier at this stage after a poor start to the campaign under previous boss Markus Schopp, finding themselves seven points adrift of safety with the likes of Reading and Cardiff City having a game in hand over them.
This presents a daunting challenge to Poya Asbaghi’s men in their quest to stay in the division beyond the end of the season, after winning just two of their opening 23 games and recording the lowest number of points in the second tier, only being kept off the bottom by Derby County who have received two separate points deductions.
Quiz: Can you name which club Barnsley sold these 26 players to?
Failing to turn their more promising performances under the Iranian into better results at this stage, and with two key assets in Cauley Woodrow and Callum Styles being linked with a move away from Oakwell, having previously lost Valerien Ismael, Alex Mowatt and Daryl Dike in the summer, it’s all threatening to unravel for the South Yorkshire side.
But after putting in a solid display against promotion favourites West Bromwich Albion on Friday evening, perhaps aided by the Baggies’ inability to be clinical in front of goal as they drew 0-0, this will give them hope as they approach next Wednesday’s tough tie against high flyers Blackburn Rovers.
And centre-back Kitching, who has made 15 league appearances for the Tykes this term, believes boss Asbaghi has given his side the positivity they needed to kick on and was bullish about their survival hopes.
The 22-year-old said: “[Asbaghi is a] really, really good person, very positive which is what I think we needed as we were down at the bottom of the league and everyone was a bit down coming into training.
“But he’s positive, he’s passionate and he’s really bringing the lads on.
“I feel like there’s more than enough in this squad to turn this season around and go on a run and get out of this relegation battle as soon as possible, because I feel like there’s definitely enough in this squad – as characters and as players – to get more wins on the board.”
The Tykes certainly have the ingredients to stay in the second tier after such a bright campaign last year, but three big departures in the summer obviously proved to be quite a blow.
They moved quickly to appoint a successor for ex-boss Ismael, but with Mowatt and Dike leaving the club as well, Schopp needed more backing in the transfer market if he was to adequately replace those key men and secure another promising finish.
No one was expecting another play-off push because their form in the second half of 2020/21 was nothing short of remarkable, but they had a real chance to cement their status as a solid second-tier side after only just about escaping relegation at the end of the 2019/20 season.
But with Carlton Morris out in the early stages of this campaign and the club failing to replace the goalscoring prowess of not only Dike, but also Mowatt, they have suffered and this must be a lesson to the board who will need to provide a decent January budget to give the club the very best chance of staying in the division.
Whether that funding is provided remains to be seen though, because that ambition in January could help to persuade some of their best assets to remain at the club.