Watford. 19th in Premier League 161 miles. P:57. W:20. D:16. L:21 The Hornets had four managers in a season which finished with them being relegated into the second tier, as Javi Gracia, Quique Sanchez Flores, Nigel Pearson and Hayden Mullins all took charge. They are now looking to make a 13th managerial change in the last seven years and are considering Gerhard Struber among other candidates. Watford spent more than £250million in their five-year Premier League stint but may struggle to hold on to star players such as Gerard Deulofeu and £27million striker Ismaila Sarr. The Reds have lost their last five matches at Vicarage Road.
Norwich City. 20th in Premier League. 157 miles. P:42. W:10. D:14. L:18. The Canaries won just five of their 38 Premier League games, scoring the fewest goals with 26 and conceding the most with 75 while finishing 14 points from safety. They have been criticised for spending barely any money on a couple of first team signings after being promoted last year, with some speculating that they have decided to save the hundreds of millions for being in the Premier League to come back stronger. They have signed seven players already – although some are for the under 23s – including the league’s only multi-million arrival so far in Przemyslaw Placheta. Barnsley have not won at Carrow Road in 18 attempts since 1937 while they have won just one of their last 15 meetings with Norwich since 2000.
Brentford 3rd in Championship. 177 miles. P:59. W:14. D:21. L:24. Barnsley played a huge part in stopping the Bees’ dream scenario of reaching the top flight for the first time since the 1940s in time to move into their new Lionel Road ground. The loss to the Reds on the final day of the season, when a victory would have put them in the Premier League, was followed by a play-off semi-final victory over Swansea City then an extra-time defeat in the final to London neighbours Fulham on Tuesday. Former Barnsley star centre-back Ethan Pinnock is set to come up against his old side again next season.
Cardiff City. 5th. 217 miles. P:53. W:14. D:12. L:27. The Championship’s schoolyard bullies made and completed the fewest passes and had the lowest possession percentage last season while competing in the most aerial battles. It is a style that worked for them as they finished fifth, having replaced Neil Warnock with Neil Harris. They did the double over Barnsley, netting a last-minute winner in December then triumphing at Oakwell in the final game before lockdown. They could not recover from a 2-0 loss at home in their first play-off leg to Fulham, despite a 2-1 victory in London in the second game.
Swansea City. 6th. 236 miles. P:74. W:24. D:15. L:35. The Swans could not emulate Barnsley and win at Brentford’s Griffin Park on a Wednesday evening in July, meaning that the Reds are the last side ever to triumph there. Swansea crept into the play-offs on the final day and beat the Bees 1-0 in the first leg but lost 3-1 in the second. Their team may look very different next season as many of their star players were loans recruited by former Liverpool academy manager and England under 17 boss Steve Cooper who impressed in his first campaign in club management.
Nottingham Forest 7th. 55 miles. P:83. W:31. D:22. L:31. The Tricky Trees delivered a surprisingly lifeless performance in the most recent game at Oakwell and were punished by Patrick Schmidt’s injury-time winner. That began a horrendous final week for Forest which they began in fifth, five points clear in the play-off places, and ended outside the top six after an astonishing goal difference swing on the final day saw Swansea overtake them. Sabri Lamouchi’s devastated interview afterwards suggests Forest may take some time to recover with a short turnaround until next season.
Millwall 8th. 181 miles. P:61. W:25. D:13. L:23. Another club who Patrick Schmidt sank with a 94th-minute winning goal and who just missed out on a play-off place. They are one of the few sides in next season’s Championship who Barnsley have a winning record against. The Reds have lost just once to the Lions in their last eight league and play-off meetings. Millwall have several ex-Reds in Tom Bradshaw, Connor Mahoney, Jason McCarthy and goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski.
Preston North End. 9th. 84 miles. P:58 W:20. D:14. L:24. The Lilywhites outclassed and embarrassed Barnsley in the 2019/20 season more than any other club. They inflicted both the Reds’ heaviest away loss of the season, a 5-1 thrashing in November which preceded the sacking of Daniel Stendel, and the heaviest at home – a 3-0 result under Gerhard Struber on a Tuesday in January. Preston – managed by ex-Red Alex Neil – were in the play-off places in February but picked up just ten points from their last 12 games.
Derby County 10th. 57 miles. P:70. W:20. D:16. L:34. The Rams are one of the clubs who could begin the season below Barnsley as they are facing charges of breaching financial fair play regulations. County, along with their bitter East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest, are the joint longest-serving Championship clubs – having been in the second tier since 2007. Former England captain Wayne Rooney, who made his debut against the Reds, is contracted for another year. Phillip Cocu’s side looked like sneaking into the play-offs but lost four successive games in July.
Blackburn Rovers. 11th. 62 miles. P:65. W:14. D:20. L:31. Two defining games of Gerhard Struber’s regime were against Tony Mowbray’s side. The Austrian’s first match in English football saw his team play well at Ewood Park but lose 3-2 thanks to the silly errors he would work so hard to eradicate. The Reds won 2-0 at home to Rovers in June, with Struber bringing on Killian Ludewig and Conor Chaplin who combined for the opening goal. That loss ended the realistic promotion ambitions of Blackburn who have ex-Reds loanees Adam Armstrong and Joe Rothwell.
Bristol City 12th. 191 miles. P:97. W:30. D:23. L:44. The Robins are looking for a new manager, having sacked former Barnsley boss Lee Johnson after four and a half years in charge with five games left this season. They had spent more than £30million on 14 different players this season but picked up just two points from their last nine matches before the dismissal. They are the side who Barnsley have played most often of all the Championship clubs in the 2020/21 season, with the two league meetings set to be the 98th and 99th clashes. The Reds have not won any of the last nine meetings or any of their last 17 visits to Ashton Gate.
Queens Park Rangers. 13th. 177 miles. P:56. W:17. D:11. L:28. The Reds’ remarkable run to safety began with a 1-0 success in the first game after the re-start at Loftus Road, where they had not triumphed since 1950 and had lost 22 of their last 25 games. They will hope to repeat the achievement, hopefully in front of a full away end, during the coming campaign. The Reds did the double over the Hoops, having won 5-3 at home in December in a game which summed up the London club’s season as they finished as the fifth highest scorers but had the third worst defence, while no one conceded more at home.
Reading 14th. 191 miles. P:76. W:30. D:20. L:26. The Royals were deep in relegation trouble until October but Mark Bowen took over as manager and guided them into mid-table. They have released experienced internationals and big-earners in Charlie Adam and Chris Gunter, while they appear to be focusing on developing youth and signing players from the lower leagues. Their inconsistency was shown when they collected seven points from a possible nine without conceding, including a 5-0 win at Luton, then lost their last three while letting in ten goals. Former Barnsley captain Andy Yiadom missed half the season with injury.
Stoke City 15th. 88 miles. P:60. W:22. D:16. L:22. The Potters subjected Barnsley to four-goal defeats twice, with the latter potentially saving them from relegation as they had slipped into the bottom three and had some very difficult games ahead. In the end, they finished seven places and eight points clear as, like Barnsley, they beat both Brentford and Nottingham Forest in the final week. They have one of the most experienced and better-paid squads in the division, including two of Barnsley’s promotion heroes of last year. Adam Davies broke into the side for the final four matches of the season, conceding just twice in his first league games for the club, but Liam Lindsay has not been involved since January.
Sheffield Wednesday 16th. 14 miles. P:75. W:22. D:17. L:36. The Owls will begin next season 12 points behind the Reds after being punished for breaking financial fair play rules. They are reportedly considering an appeal, as are Charlton who would have stayed up had Wednesday been deducted the points this season. Wednesday, bizarrely, scored the fewest home goals in the Championship last season – with 19 in 23 Hillsborough games – but the most away with 39. Several of the ageing players who have been mainstays for many years are starting to leave the club as ex-Red Garry Monk attempts to rebuild.
Middlesborough 17th. 88 miles. P:61. W:17. D:12. L:32. Former Barnsley winger and expert Championship manager Neil Warnock has confirmed he will remain with Boro for next season. The 71-year-old replaced Jonathan Woodgate one game after the lockdown and won four of his eight matches in charge. He has lost just three of the 16 games in which he has managed against the Oakwell club. Boro were the only side in the division to score fewer goals than Barnsley, despite former Reds loanee Ashley Fletcher top-scoring with 13. They have not won at home in 11 matches in 2020.
Huddersfield Town 18th. 19 miles. P:74. W:27. D:15. L:32. The Terriers sacked Danny Cowley after he guided them to safety with a game remaining, and have appointed Spaniard Carlos Corberan who had been Leeds United’s under 23 coach. Cowley and his brother Nicky took over during a disastrous start which saw them collect just two points from their first nine games of the season. They just avoided a second successive relegation, having been in the Premier League last year, and are reportedly tens of millions of pounds in debt.
Luton Town 19th. 150 miles. P:61. W:27. D:10. L:24. The Hatters’ survival was even more incredible than the Reds’. They were ten points from safety in February but lost only two of their last 15 games, winning seven including the final two. Nathan Jones, having tarnished the reputation he built while masterminding back-to-back promotions by moving to Stoke City, replaced his namesake Graeme during lockdown and engineered a dramatic survival. Luton – who have released former Barnsley captain Jacob Butterfield but signed ex-Red Jordan Clark – lost half of their games and conceded 82 goals.
Birmingham City 20th. 101 miles. P:83. W:24. D:20. L:39. Birmingham did the double over the Reds last season, with their 1-0 victory at Oakwell leaving Barnsley nine points from safety with 14 games left. But that was their last victory of the season, as they went on a 15-game winless run. Had it not been for a 90th-minute equaliser against Charlton they would have lost all of their last seven matches and finished in the relegation zone. They ended 20th, a point and place ahead of Barnsley – with the gap having been 18 with 14 games remaining – and have just appointed former Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest boss Aitor Karanka. Barnsley are set to visit St Andrew’s twice next season as Coventry City are tenants at their near neighbours’ ground.
Coventry City. 1st in League One. 101 miles. P:61. W:18. D:14. L:29. Coventry’s fight to return to their own city and the bitter dispute between their owners and rugby club Wasps, who own the Ricoh Arena, puts in perspective both any errors made by Barnsley’s owners and also the excellent job done by former Reds manager Mark Robins and his assistant, ex-Barnsley defender Adi Viveash. The Oakwell club will hope St Andrew’s is the ground where they finally triumph in an away fixture against the Sky Blues having failed to do so since 1923, in 24 attempts – with 17 defeats – at Highfield Road, the Ricoh and Northampton Town’s Sixfields. Conor Chaplin and Luke Thomas both played for Coventry in the 2018/19 season, with the latter netting in the 2-2 draw at Oakwell.
Rotherham United. 2nd in L1. 14 miles. P:52. W:21. D:14. L:17. The Millers are another South Yorkshire rival in the Championship for Barnsley and will be looking to win a derby against the Reds for the first time in nine attempts since 1982. They have not won in 13 games at Oakwell across more than half a century. Since losing twice to Barnsley in the 2016/17 season, United have been relegated, promoted, relegated then promoted again in successive seasons under Paul Warne. The Millers are one of the few sides expected to have a lower budget than the Reds while both they and Coventry may have a significant physical and fitness disadvantage in the early stages, having not played for more than six months.
Wycombe Wanderers. 3rd in L1. 172 miles. P:6. W:2. D:3. L:1. Gareth Ainsworth – appointed in 2012 – is no longer the longest-serving manager of an EFL club, after Simon Weaver’s Harrogate Town beat Notts County in the National League play-off final at Wembley on Sunday. Ainsworth has been approached at least once to be Barnsley head coach in recent years but has now taken Wycombe to the highest level in their history. The Chairboys were eighth at the start of lockdown but were moved up to third on the points-per-game method used to decide League One, then they beat Fleetwood Town and Oxford United in the play-offs.