When football resumed in June, Barnsley looked destined for another relegation back to the third tier of English football. The Tykes were seven points from Championship safety and their final three fixtures were against teams in the top six. Now, they have broken into the Championship play-offs and will be eyeing-up promotion to the Premier League.
Gerhard Struber managed to keep the Tykes in the division in extraordinary fashion, beating both Nottingham Forest and Brentford to ensure survival on the final day.
The Tykes struggled to maintain this run of form into the next season and were without a win for the first seven games of this season. Within this rotten spell, Struber departed for New York Red Bulls, raising concerns from Barnsley fans who were already fearing relegation.
At the end of October Valérien Ismaël was appointed Barnsley manager and whilst being an unknown name to most, he had built up quite a reputation with Austrian club LASK Linz.
Possessing a football philosophy that is so heavily focussed on pressing from the front, it took Ismaël a couple of weeks to start seeing results from his players.
Quiz: Have each of these 24 ex-Barnsley players retired or not?
Four wins from five games appeared to eliminate any relegation worries, whilst the play-offs remained a world away. However, since his appointment only Norwich City have accumulated more points than the Tykes, winning 17 of the 28 games Ismaël has been in charge for.
The Yorkshire club may not be as financially gifted as any of their play-off challenging counter-parts but they certainly possess a team full of talent. Players like Alex Mowatt and Cauley Woodrow are now deemed as some of the more senior players within the squad, despite the pair being just 26 years of age, highlighting the youthful squad they have in their hands.
The emergence of Callum Styles and the signing of Daryl Dike are just two examples of young individuals who have become integral under Ismaël. Styles has even earned Premier League interest in recent months, with his manager’s faith key to this increasing attention.
Occupying sixth position now, the Tykes have become genuine promotion contenders and will be looking to cement a play-off spot before hosting league leaders, Norwich City, on the final day of the season.
The job Valérien Ismaël has done at Oakwell is nothing short of exceptional. The fans will certainly give him a big welcome when they are allowed to return next season, and if everything goes well, they could be in the Premier League.