Perhaps the most inspiring story of English football this year is the one of Barnsley football club.
When the 2019/20 Championship campaign resumed in June last year, the Tykes were seven points adrift from safety and looked destined for relegation. Now, they sit in the play-offs, on the back of an 11-game unbeaten run.
To fully understand the sheer brilliance of their achievement, Barnsley were without a win in their first seven games this season.
It was at this point that manager Gerhard Struber departed Yorkshire for New York Red Bulls, leaving the club in a state of gloom.
However, in stepped Valerien Ismael, and almost instantly, The Tykes’ fortunes were turned.
Since the Frenchman took charge, only Daniel Farke’s Norwich City have accumulated more points than Barnsley, winning 18 games in the process.
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The former LASK Linz man has effectively worked his high-pressing football philosophy into the second tier of English football. A process that has been made easier by the energetic and youthful squad the club possesses.
Ismael’s side have picked up 25 points from a possible 27 in recent weeks – a run that includes the likes of Bournemouth, Brentford and Millwall.
Whilst the prospect of competing in the Championship play-offs is becoming more of a reality each week, their recent form justifies their inclusion as automatic promotion contenders.
The Tykes sit eight points off Watford in second and whilst that appears a sizeable gap, the Hornets still have to play Brentford, Swansea City and Norwich City in their run-in.
Swansea, who are also eight points ahead of Barnsley, also have a difficult end to the campaign.
They have trips to Bournemouth and Reading, before a potentially season-defining match against the Hornets on the last day of the season.
Additionally, Brentford’s remaining fixtures will also provide Barnsley fans with hope. The Bees travel to Bournemouth, in-between hosting both Cardiff City and Watford.
Including Barnsley’s trip to Norwich City on the last game of the season, the Tykes still have the most favourable run-in amongst the top six.
Statistically speaking, Barnsley have the lowest PPG of remaining opponents figure, out of the current play-off occupiers.
In a year where survival was the ultimate objective, Valerien Ismael has transformed Barnsley into one of the most feared Championship clubs in recent seasons.