AFTER a hectic first month of the season, with plenty happening on and off the pitch, the next month should give a slightly clearer sense of this season’s Barnsley team and their potential.
The next few weeks should bring the Reds debuts of Claudio Gomes and Remy Vita – who both arrived on deadline day last week – as well as Belgian duo Obbi Oulare and Aaron Leya Iseka whose arrivals were delayed by visa issues which are now resolved. Mads Andersen and Jordan Williams are also getting closer to fitness.
Barnsley will also have had two weeks on the training pitch during this international break, which ends today, to work further on Markus Schopp’s style and iron out some of the problems they encountered while picking up an adequate six points from the first five games.
There are still issues, such as Liam Kitching’s three-game ban, injuries to key players such as Carlton Morris, and the doubts over the match-fitness of Oulare whose physicality would add a different dimension to the Reds’ attack.
But, although the season will only be ten games old by the time of the next international break which starts on October 3, we should start to get a few more answers to some of the questions about this team and their prospects this campaign.
How much impact will the summer signings make?
Will the Reds suffer from a lack of experience, especially in central midfield?
How quickly can they complete the transition from Valerien Ismael’s direct approach to Schopp’s more passing style?
Can they see wins out after making good starts then losing leads in the last two games?
Who will score the regular goals?
In a month when the Reds come up against two clubs run by former Oakwell chief executives – Blackpool’s Ben Mansford and Forest’s Dane Murphy – the current incumbent Khaled El-Ahmad is due to work at Oakwell for the first time, with his role officially starting this week.
The Swede’s main tasks will be to tie down players to longer contracts – with Romal Palmer’s deal ending next summer and several others the following year – as well as preparing for the January transfer window and making the improvements to the academy and commercial departments he has been brought in to make.
There is plenty to look forward to in the next month, with trips to the seaside as well as two more of the bread and butter 3pm Saturday kick-offs at Oakwell that have been so missed during the Covid crisis. The Reds start with games against two of the current top six as they visit Bournemouth tomorrow and Stoke City on Wednesday then, later, also face two of the current bottom three in a week – Blackpool and Nottingham Forest.
These are the next six games:
BOURNEMOUTH, A, TOMORROW
The Cherries were made one of the heavy favourites for promotion this season by most bookmakers along with the three relegated clubs from the Premier League.
This is the Reds’ longest trip of the campaign but also one of the most successful of last season when they won 3-2 during a glorious run of form in March.
Like Barnsley, Bournemouth lost in the play-off semi-finals in May, but have made a better start to this campaign as they are unbeaten so far.
They bolstered their team late in the transfer window with the addition of England centre-back Gary Cahill, Scotland star Ryan Christie and pacy forward Jamal Lowe who scored home and away against Barnsley for Swansea last season.
Scott Parker is giving several youth players a chance, having sold last season’s star man Arnaut Danjuma to Villareal for £21million.
The Cherries have fielded the three youngest starting 11s in the Championship this season, even younger than Barnsley’s usual 11 so far which averages 23.7.
Bournemouth should, in theory, be a good opponent for the Reds as Parker’s teams like to pass out from the back and can be pressed like Barnsley did at QPR in their last away game, but they will need a more complete performance than in that 2-2 draw.
STOKE CITY, A, WEDNESDAY
Jacob Brown was sold by the Reds to the Potters a year ago yesterday.
The forward had an up and down first season with the Potters while his former employers almost reached the Premier League.
But Brown, and former Reds captain Adam Davies who is currently City’s back-up goalkeeper, will look to get one over on the club for whom they both made their professional debuts.
Having been relegated from the top flight in 2018, and spending more than £50million that summer, Stoke have finished 16th, 15th and 14th in the last three seasons.
They are in debts of almost £200million to their owners and are exactly the type of club Barnsley will look to outperform by living within their means and doing sensible business.
BLACKBURN, H, SEPTEMBER 18
Rovers made no signings until the final weeks of the transfer window, in which they sold former Barnsley loanee Adam Armstrong to Premier League Southampton for £16million.
They eventually signed Lincoln left-back Tayo Edun for £500,000 and loaned in four players aged 21 or younger from Premier League clubs.
They have one of the youngest squads in the Championship, just behind Barnsley.
Rovers have collected eight points from their first five games, with Ben Brereton netting three goals after playing for Chile in the Copa America in the summer.
Rovers have lost their last three games at Oakwell, as many as they lost in the previous 65 years.
BLACKPOOL, A, SEPTEMBER 25
A late September trip to the seaside on a Saturday is the kind of fixture some Barnsley fans were longing for during the 18 months of lockdowns and behind-closed-doors games.
The Tangerines – who won the League One play-off final in May – have had a difficult start to the season, collecting just two points from their five games so far.
They have former Barnsley players Callum Connolly and Kenny Dougall while former Oakwell chief executive Ben Mansford now has the same role at Bloomfield Road.
The Reds have won just one of their last five games at Blackpool but it was in the most recent attempt in League One in December 2018 thanks to Cameron McGeehan’s winner.
NOTTINGHAM FOREST, H, SEPTEMBER 29
Dane Murphy has had a difficult start to life at the City Ground where he moved in the summer after his contract expired at Oakwell.
Manager Chris Hughton admits he is under pressure and just avoided going into the international break with no points from five games after an equaliser against bitter rivals Derby County in the most recent game.
There have been chants from Forest fans of ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’ and ‘we’re going down with the Derby’, while the name of Hughton’s predecessor Sabri Lamouchi has been sung.
Murphy may be forced into a change if results do not pick up before he is due back at Oakwell in 19 days.
Forest brought in nine new players this summer including Braian Ojeda, 21, from Paraguayan club Olimpia, which is the sort of signing Murphy said he wanted to make for Barnsley post-Brexit.
MILLWALL, H, OCTOBER 2
Barnsley are due to complete their second batch of fixtures this season with a home game against the Lions.
Millwall have won just one of their last nine meetings with Barnsley, losing six.
They did not win any of their first four Championship games this season but scored a last-minute winner against ten man Blackpool in their most recent fixture.
Former Barnsley striker Tom Bradshaw has not played a minute of Championship football this season but started both of their EFL Cup games.
They also have ex Reds loanees Bartosz Bialkowski and Connor Mahoney.
After a two-week international break, the Reds then play six games in 21 days.
They visit Reading and Middlesbrough before hosting a derby with Sheffield United then going to Bristol City.
November starts with home games against Derby County and Hull City before another international break.