The players who took Barnsley into the Championship play-offs.
53 games (1 goal)
No one personifies Barnsley’s turnaround from last season to this more than the Danish defender.
After making regular errors in a young, relegation-battling team, he admits last year’s lockdown helped him as he was able to return to Denmark, refocus and also become inspired by a book by former US Navy Seal David Goggins.
Now living with his girlfriend instead of on his own and adopting the tactic of doing extra press-ups every time he feels low, Andersen has been a stand-out player over the last year. He has virtually eradicated the old errors from him game while he has made the most clearances and interceptions in the Championship this season and contributed a remarkable five assists at the other end. He is the first Barnsley outfielder to start every game in a second tier season since Nicky Eaden in 1996/97.
Alex Mowatt 52 (8)
The Reds captain scored eight goals, which was the most in the Championship by a central midfielder, while he added seven assists. No one in the division netted more times from outside the box than Mowatt with five, including particularly memorable strikes at home to Watford in October and at QPR in March. Freed up by playing alongside a more defensive-minded partner in the middle, he has provided creativity in open play while also finding success with his corners and free-kicks, especially since Christmas. He is now out of contract.
Cauley Woodrow 50 (15)
Barnsley’s top-scorer for the third successive season, while also contributing five assists. Woodrow often topped stats tables for metres covered in games for the Reds as he put in tireless shifts as a wide forward in a front three or as the central striker competing for long balls – neither of which is his natural game. He admits it has been a different season for him in front of goal – with half of his 12 in the league from the penalty spot – but he has held his nerve from 12 yards at crucial moments and showed his finishing ability on Saturday. A class act and experienced at this level.
Callum Styles 50 (5)
No player in the Championship made more tackles this season than Barnsley’s 21-year-old left wing-back.
Before this season, Styles had started just five league games for Barnsley, but has been in the 11 for 40 of their 46 Championship fixtures as well as both play-off games. Although his form has fluctuated at times – unsurprisingly for a young player playing out of position – he finished with five goals and three assists while he is surely one of the hottest young English prospects outside the top flight. One criticism of Valerien Ismael is that he did not use Styles more in his natural position of central midfield to add some more creativity.
Styles scored sensational long-range goals against Nottingham Forest and Stoke City. A very exciting talent.
Dominik Frieser 49 (3)
Brought in by Gerhard Struber but a former player for Ismael at LASK, the Austrian worked hard and pressed well but struggled for consistent quality. He admits he found the Championship difficult at first and did extra gym work in order to adapt. Did not score at Oakwell but finished off two of Barnsley’s best team goals at Sheffield Wednesday and Bournemouth.
Michal Helik 49 (6)
An advert for what can happen to overseas players at Barnsley, the centre-back joined in September from Cracovia and will end the season in the Poland squad for the European Championships. After being sent off on his debut at Reading, he had to be taken out of the team again in December after some difficult games but returned soon after and became an ever-present. He has been imperious in the middle of the back three and finished the Championship’s top five for interceptions, clearances and headers won, while he netted six goals.
Callum Brittain 45
The right wing-back was released by League One MK Dons a year ago, due to financial problems caused by the coronavirus crisis, but eventually re-signed and was then bought by Barnsley in October. He has been an ever-present almost ever since, finishing in the division’s top five for both successful dribbles and blocked crosses – the key tasks of a wing-back. Brittain also added five assists while the only blemish on an otherwise excellent season is the lack of his first Barnsley goal with the close-range miss in the first play-off leg leaving him ‘devastated.’
Michael Sollbauer 43
The oldest player at the club aged 30, Sollbauer was a regular starter in the first half of the season – having played a huge role in keeping the Reds in the Championship after signing the previous January.
But the return of Toby Sibbick in January meant he was not guaranteed a place and, after being alternated in and out of the team, he was an unused substitute in the play-offs. The Austrian, a popular figure at the club and impressive talker in press conferences, has a year left on his contract.
Conor Chaplin 39 (4)
Having netted 13 goals last season, the striker struggled for the same form this campaign. He struck twice in Valerien Ismael’s first four games but then, often used in a wider role and not guaranteed a start, he netted once in 27 before scoring a fine goal in the last league game of the season – only to be an unused substitute in both play-off matches. Although he can open games up with his skill, passing and movement, he struggled in some of the more physical games before Ismael began to leave him out altogether against more direct opponents.
Romal Palmer 39 (1)
A year ago, the 22-year-old had never played a professional game but he has been a regular starter in central midfield for a side that got within two games of the Premier League. Given a contract 12 months ago in a show of faith from the club following persistent hamstring injuries, Palmer has more than repaid that.
Used in a holding midfield role despite having always previously been an attacking midfielder, he was backed to play regularly by Ismael after Matty James’ loan was not extended. He has had ups and downs as you would expect for a player in his first season, and has only completed 90 minutes twice, but he was Barnsley’s best starter in the play-off first leg and is clearly a real talent for the future.
Victor Adeboyejo 38 (2)
There was shock when Ismael said he backed the young striker to shine in the Championship and therefore called off the club’s autumn search for a free agent striker. But the next day Adeboyejo curled in a fantastic strike at Derby County from the edge of the area, finishing off an excellent team move to secure a 2-0 victory.
There was more success the following month when he came off the bench to net an excellent winner against Preston, capping a huge turnaround for a player who scored twice in 38 games on loan to lower league clubs last season.
But that was his last goal and he has not scored in 26 appearances over six months, although many of those have been cameos off the bench. He started on Saturday, but has scored six goals in his last 100 matches.
Brad Collins 29
After spending the majority of the first half of the season on the bench, Collins was made first choice goalkeeper in January and has repaid Ismael’s faith with a series of good performances.
With Barnsley facing the fewest shots in the division and operating with a very high defensive line, their goalkeeper’s main function is often to run out of his area and clear the ball. After some nervous moments doing that while he was getting back into the rhythm of playing regular football, Collins has mastered it and recorded, by far, the most runs out of his box of any Championship goalkeeper while often making the most clearances of any Barnsley player in recent games. He has also been called upon to make some fine saves, particularly in the 1-0 win over Rotherham United last month which ultimately secured Barnsley’s place in the top six. Since he was tackled in his own box on Good Friday and Lucas Joao missed an open goal, Collins has been on top form and was probably Barnsley’s best player throughout April. Some may criticise him for his punch for Swansea’s goal on Saturday but it was sandwiched between a disputed free-kick and sublime finish.
Jordan Williams 28, 1
Started the first six league games but picked up a hamstring injury while warming up at Millwall in October with new manager Ismael watching from the stands. Williams would start just one more league match all season – in which he was hooked at half-time at Bournemouth after an error for their first goal. But he has looked good as a sub recently, especially on Saturday with a superb assist.
Herbie Kane 27
Understood to have signed for £1.25million, one of the biggest fees Barnsley have paid for a player ever, the midfielder’s six league starts therefore cost about £200,000 each.
He was an understudy to Matty James, who signed on the same day in October, before Christmas then lost the battle to replace James to Romal Palmer.
Kane is a similar player to captain Alex Mowatt, who has gelled better with more defensive-minded central midfield partners.
His best performance of the season came as a second half substitute in the March win at Bournemouth but, later that week, he suffered a knee injury which ended his season.
Only 22 and with three years remaining on his contract, he has the talent to still have an excellent Barnsley career.
Toby Sibbick 26
The defender must have had a quiet 22nd birthday on Sunday, hours after Barnsley’s season ended with play-off defeat.
But he should be proud of his second half of the season, winning over many fans after he was often a scapegoat during the difficult first half of last season.
Shunned by Gerhard Struber, he was loaned out to Hearts in Scotland – where he missed games due to glandular fever before they were relegated – then KV Oostende in Belgium where he did not play.
There was a deal in place for him to move to Belgium permanently but instead he returned to Oakwell in January and flourished under Ismael.
He was in and out of the 11 during a battle with Michael Sollbauer but played both play-off games and impressed despite defeat.
Jack Walton 25
The goalkeeper’s first 22 games for Barnsley were under five different managers.
The 23-year-old began the season as first choice, after excellent performances during lockdown to keep the Reds up last season, but was dropped twice. First Gerhard Struber left him out of his final team at Middlesbrough before moving to New York Red Bulls then – after Adam Murray returned him to the side – Ismael replaced him in January with Brad Collins. It seemed a harsh decision at the time, with Walton having made very few real errors, but Collins has looked more confident rushing out of his penalty area and has justified Ismael’s decision.
Walton is still a fine talent who has been brought through the Oakwell system from the age of 15.
Although he has been on the bench since January, he was still the first player fans saw when they returned last week – provoking a huge cheer.
Carlton Morris 25 (7)
Arguably a more surprising success than Dike, as he netted seven goals in seven starts, with three assists, having never scored that many goals for a club before at far lower levels.
The 25-year-old had never scored more than six goals in a season at League One and League Two level, but has been prolific in his first taste of Championship football since a loan at relegated Rotherham in 2017. The recruitment department deserve major credit for identifying a player who, based on his record, did not seem set to revolutionise Barnsley’s attack. But he missed the 2018/19 season
through injury and is coming into his peak years, while he is an extremely impressive character and talker in press conferences. Many of his performances, especially in the first leg against Swansea, suggest he will be an excellent striker for Barnsley.
Daryl Dike 22 (9)
The 20-year-old US international striker has made a huge impact since arriving on loan from Orlando City in January. Having only played one full season in the MLS after playing university football, Dike made his international debut on the final day of the January transfer window which allowed him to move to Barnsley the following day and make his Reds debut in the FA Cup against his beloved Chelsea. After goals against Stoke and QPR, his major breakthrough was the sensational winner against Birmingham City which was Barnsley’s best goal of the season. He then netted braces at both Wycombe Wanderers and Luton Town – where he missed a penalty for a hat-trick – and an overhead kick winner at Huddersfield Town. Dike’s performance levels dipped in recent weeks, possibly due to fatigue or Barnsley’s over-reliance on long balls to him, but he is clearly a player with the potential to reach the top and the Reds have to fight to keep him permanently.
Luke Thomas 22
The winger was getting less gametime than last season when he was a regular starter so pushed for a January loan move to Ipswich Town.
He stopped playing in February and announced he was taking a break from football for mental health reasons. Expected to return for pre-season at Oakwell.
Aapo Halme 20
The Finn made just three league starts in a difficult second season at Oakwell.
After fracturing his toe in the December win at Sheffield Wednesday, he could not win his place back in the back three and was instead used as a makeshift central midfielder in more physical games. He has been called up for Finland’s provisional squad for Euro 2020.
Matty James 15
The experienced Leicester loanee’s deal at Barnsley was not extended in January, with wages an issue but Ismael also wanted to play youngsters such as Romal Palmer and Herbie Kane.
He had done well but the Reds’ form improved without James while he helped Coventry stay up. Now out of contract.
Clarke Oduor 13
The player who kept Barnsley up with an injury-time winner at Brentford in July had been an unused substitute for 27 consecutive games before being left out of the play-off matches.
The fourth choice wing-back, with Jordan Williams preferred to come off the bench, he is extremely talented but may need to move on to play regularly.
Patrick Schmidt 11 (1)
The Austrian striker was hoping to feature regularly this season after playing a big role in keeping the Reds up last season as he scored then assisted last-minute winners in the final two games.
But he once again found himself a substitute and, although he scored at Middlesbrough in the League Cup, he barely featured under Ismael after a disappointing performance in a 3-0 loss at Cardiff City in November which convinced the head coach to focus on more physical forwards. Schmidt has scored once in ten games on loan to Ried in Austria.
Elliot Simoes 9 (1)
Like Schmidt, he performed poorly at Cardiff in November and, in his case, was taken off before the break and is yet to play again for the Reds.
He had scored three Championship goals in 2020, including at Stoke City this season, but Ismael said he needed to be more professional and serious. Simoes made his Angola debut this season but spent the second half of it on loan at League One Doncaster Rovers where he played only ten games. Also a victim of Ismael’s system not using natural wingers.
Kilian Ludewig 7
A key player in the great escape, the young German loanee wing-back departed the club after mentor Gerhard Struber left in October.
Branded ‘inconsistent’ by chief executive Dane Murphy in a club statement, he joined Schalke but played eight times in an injury-plagued spell as one of the biggest clubs in German football dropped out of the Bundesliga for the first time in 30 years.
Marcel Ritzmaier 6
Began the season at left wing-back and also featured in midfield but never convinced the majority of Reds fans and was another to leave when Struber went.
He has been a regular for loan club Rapid Vienna, including in the Europa League, and may leave permanently in the summer despite having a year left on his contract.
George Miller 6
The striker is still waiting for a first Reds start but came off the bench six times under Ismael before the signings of Daryl Dike and Carlton Morris in January meant he played with the under 23s. Cameron Thompson has been preferred on the bench recently.
Jasper Moon 3
The 20-year-old centre-back made his professional debut as a late substitute at Rotherham in December then impressed in central midfield, after a top six place was secured, against Preston and Norwich.
Liam Kitching 2
After an injury he arrived with from Forest Green in January would not heal and needed surgery, the centre-back finally made his debut in the last eight minutes of the final league game against Norwich City.
He also came on for the final minutes of Saturday’s game at Swansea. A highly-rated prospect.