No manager or head coach of Barnsley FC has won more of his first eight league matches than Valerien Ismael since Allan Clarke in 1978 – and the Frenchman is hoping for a sixth victory today.
Ismael has won five of his eight Championship games since being appointed in October, a record matched only by then caretakers David Flitcroft in 2013 and Paul Heckingbottom – in League One – in 2016, since Clarke’s promotion from Division Four 42 years ago.
The Reds lost 2-1 at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday then won 2-1 at Birmingham City on Tuesday, which leaves them 14th in the table with 19 points from 15 games.
They are nine points clear of the bottom three and seven off the play-offs ahead of their home games with Bournemouth from 5.30pm today and Wycombe Wanderers from 7.45pm on Wednesday.
Barnsley are second in the form table for the eight games in which Ismael has been in charge. They have made one of their best starts to a Championship campaign in the last 20 years, despite not winning in their first seven league games which was their joint longest wait for a century. Of their 13 second tier seasons since the year 2000, the only times they have collected more points than their current tally at the 15-game stage were in 2016/17 under Heckingbottom and 2007/08 under Simon Davey.
Ismael told the Chronicle: “We want to keep going, keep working and keep pushing. We don’t have time to enjoy it but any success we have gives us more confidence. We need to be sensible and keep focusing on every game one by one.
“The most important thing is to stay hungry. We know we can’t win every game but, from the first minute, we will give everything to win every game.”
He added: “My goal from the first day was to have a safety season earlier than last season. If you have consistent performances, you stay in a good level in the table. In the last games we were not efficient enough, we need to be more ruthless and clinical with our chances. Also we cannot make mistakes in the defence because if you go behind then it takes a lot of energy to come back. This is what we have been working on in training.”
Tonight’s match was brought forward to today by Sky Sports who moved kick-off from 7.45pm to 5.30pm after scheduling Newcastle’s match with Aston Villa at 8pm, which has now been cancelled due to Covid-19 cases in the Newcastle camp.
The Reds had won three successive home games before losing 1-0 to Brentford in their latest Oakwell fixture.
Jordan Williams is still out with a hamstring injury but Ismael says his players are ready for their third game in six days. He said: “We don’t think about fatigue, we know it is a tough programme but it is the same for our opponent. We have the possibility to make more substitutes.
“We want to stay focused on our performance. I have a good feeling that the players are ready. We try to keep them fresh in their brains and bodies.
“We have made a lot of good decisions but the game will be the truth.”
Bournemouth are second in the table with 27 points from 15 games after being relegated from the Premier League and replacing long-term manager Eddie Howe with his former assistant Jason Tindall.
This week they drew 2-2 in South Yorkshire at Rotherham United on Saturday – ending a three-game winning run – then suffered a second defeat of the season on Tuesday as they went 3-0 down to visitors Preston before losing 3-2.
They are the second top-scorers behind Blackburn. Ismael told the Chronicle: “Before the game it is always 50/50. Bournemouth is one of the best teams in the league but they have to show this on the pitch. We have to show that we can beat this team with our principles, our organisation, our mentality and the improvement that we can make from the last games. It is a very good challenge for the guys and they are looking forward to it because you want to play the best teams to see where you are.”
He added: “They are one of the favourites for promotion. They have very good individual players and they are very good tactically. They came from the Premier League. We need another great performance. We have quality and the possibility to beat anyone.”
This will be the 43rd meeting of the two clubs with Barnsley winning 16 and losing 13. The Reds have not won any of the last five clashes and the Cherries did the double over them the last time they met in 2013/14. Barnsley’s last win over the Dorset club was a 3-1 success at Dean Court in 2004 thanks to Barry Conlon’s brace and a Michael Chopra strike.
Bournemouth have not lost at Oakwell this century in four visits, with their last defeat there coming in the FA Cup in 1999. Barnsley’s last home league win over the Cherries was 5-2 in 1988.