Barnsley have enjoyed a ‘strange but good’ first week back and hope to start full contact training in the coming days, but there are still doubts over whether the season will restart or if the Reds will have to fight relegation in court. 

Following tests last week and this week, which revealed no cases of Covid-19, players and staff returned to Oakwell on Monday after more than two months away and conducted training on Monday, Tuesday and yesterday in five groups of five at staggered times while observing social distancing.  They are hoping that they will be able to train in one group with full contact in the near future, after the Premier League voted to return to contact training with the EFL likely to follow. 

The EFL announced last week that their intention is to complete the season – most likely from mid-June until late July with the games taking place behind closed doors. The top flight is due to restart on June 17 with no EFL date yet.  

But, if more than half the clubs in the Championship vote not to do so, or it is not possible due to a second spike in the coronavirus, the EFL propose that the tables would be finalised on a points-per-game basis with the usual number of teams promoted and relegated.  An initial vote on this proposal is expected to take place in the next week. 

Midfielder Callum Styles told the Chronicle: “We’re all expecting the season to go ahead. We’re one below the Premier League so it’s important our season finishes and teams get promoted. “No one here is expecting the season to be cancelled. It’s been good being back but it’s been a bit strange having to train in small groups with no contact.  We have mainly been doing ball-work in circuits – running, dribbling and doing technical drills. We’re hoping that we start doing contact training soon and get ready for games.

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“Coming off the back of eight or nine weeks at home, it has been really strange to come back in with the strict rules. It’s a strange atmosphere, it’s not like normal. But it is good to be back. The players are in a good mood and it helps that it has been really good weather all week. We just all wanted to get back, see each other and get back to doing what we love doing.” 

Barnsley – who have not played in 83 days since their 2-0 home loss to Cardiff City on March 7 – are seven points adrift of safety at the bottom of the Championship with nine games         remaining. Any curtailment of the season on a points-per-game basis would see them drop into League One for the third time in six years. 

The Reds have written a letter to the EFL and all other Championship clubs outlining their intention to start legal proceedings should they be relegated and other clubs not punished for breaching financial fair play rules.  The Reds are calling for points deductions against the likes of Birmingham City, Sheffield Wednesday and Derby County to be imposed this season – which could drag some of those clubs into a relegation fight with bottom side Barnsley. 

The letter claims the Reds ‘would not be in favour of any form of relegation’ should the season not finish, adding: “how can anyone use the phrase ‘sporting integrity’ or the word ‘fair’ if the games aren’t finished?” It also claims that Barnsley have been waiting nine months for a transfer payment from another Championship club. 

Meanwhile, the players are still in negotiations over a short-term pay deferral. Several of the first team squad’s contracts are due to expire in a month, such as goalkeeper Sami Radlinger and loanee full-back Kilian Ludewig. Head coach Gerhard Struber is confident both will sign a temporary extension to their deals so they can be involved for the remainder of the campaign.

There are also negotiations ongoing with Kenny Dougall, whose contract the club have an option to extend for a further year but may be reluctant to do so as he has not been a first choice player under Struber. The Australian midfielder has been in training this week.  Dani Pinillos and Mamadou Thiam are also out of contract at the end of June but, having not played at all under Struber, they have not returned to training and will leave the club’s employment when their deals expire.