A look at some key issues as the Reds look for Markus Schopp’s replacement
HEAD COACH CHANGE FOR THIRD STRAIGHT OCTOBER. NEW MAN NEEDS TO BE SUCCESSFUL LIKE STRUBER AND ISMAEL
Barnsley have now changed manager in October for the third year in a row, leaving themselves once again under major pressure to find the right man to dig them out of a self-made hole.
Although Schopp’s exit was officially announced on Monday, November 1, he had parted company with the club over the Halloween weekend – ending a scarily bad 16-game spell.
The previous two changes proved to be inspired, with Gerhard Struber and Valerien Ismael turning each of the last two campaigns around to different extents after poor starts.
Will it be three awesome autumn appointments in a row?
The current ownership group rightly received a lot of praise for a run of excellent head coach decisions. Daniel Stendel took the Reds out of League One, Gerhard Struber kept them in the Championship against all the odds and Valerien Ismael performed better than possibly any Barnsley boss ever in taking them to the play-offs.
But, either side of that, these owners have brought in the two managers with the lowest points-per-game records in the club’s history in Jose Morais and Schopp – who both proved to be not cut out at all to be head coaches in the Championship and memories of them will run shivers down fans’ spines for years to come.
Another mistake could relegate the Reds, despite this squad being more than capable of staying up, but a sensible appointment would easily salvage this season.
So it is a vital decision for an ownership group that seem to have lurched from incredible success to massive lows over the four years since buying the majority of the club from Patrick Cryne.
The last three appointments have all been from the Austrian Bundesliga but the pool of available coaches in that league must be growing smaller, with the Reds wanting a specific style of play and Brexit restrictions meaning the coaches have to have a certain level of experience, as do their staff.
New chief executive Khaled El-Ahmad knows the Scandinavian and North American football landscapes well, as well as Manchester City’s global network of coaches across their various teams and clubs. There are some talented EFL managers who would fit the Reds well.
It does not matter where he is from, as long as he can steer the Reds to safety.
REDS WENT AWAY FROM WHAT MADE THEM GOOD AND PAID PRICE
It is odd that the club decided to change from Valerien Ismael’s long ball approach, which seemed to give them a cheat code to soar up the Championship in a way not seen for decades, to a pedestrian passing style which has seen them try and fail to ‘outfootball’ far more expensively-assembled and experienced teams.
Chief executive Khaled El-Ahmad said it is because Ismael’s style does not develop players to sell on as well as Schopp’s and that the long ball approach was not sustainable for the club.
There may be a little bit of cold, hard truth to that – as depressing and commercially-minded as it sounds.
But surely it would have been better, at least in the short-term, to stay closer to a style that made them so successful, perhaps adding slightly more finesse rather than doing a full stylistic 180. Barnsley’s two goals under Ismael’s old assistant Joe Laumann in midweek were due to accurate long passes into dangerous areas.
The new head coach must be willing to embrace both styles as they navigate the tricky terrain of the Championship.
But most importantly – and this is where Schopp failed – he must quickly work out a clear identity for the team and drill it into his players with good work on the training ground, ideally in the international break which begins after tomorrow’s game with Hull.
TOP TEN FORM NEEDED FOR 50 POINTS, STARTING WITH HULL WIN
There are still 90 Championship points to play for and the Reds have enough quality in the squad to launch another rush up the table following a poor start.
Taking 50 points as a sensible safety mark – although it is sometimes nearer to 40 – they will need 39 from their remaining 30 games to survive, which is the type of form which would have you in the top ten if from the start of a season.
They managed even better than that last season but it won’t be easy to repeat.
A win tomorrow against fellow strugglers Hull City would be a very good start.
The last time Barnsley played Hull at home, in 2019, they were on a 17-match winless Championship run which stretched from August to November.
Under Gerhard Struber, who was in charge of his first home game having taken over from Daniel Stendel that month, the Reds went 2-0 up thanks to goals by Alex Mowatt and Mike Bahre then, after Hull replied, Conor Chaplin secured the win in the 90th minute and sank to the floor.
The midweek win over Derby means they have avoided a similar scenario, but they must still defeat a Tigers side on awful form and make it back-to-back wins going into the international break.
COULD THIS CHANGE HAVE BEEN MADE A MONTH EARLIER AFTER HOME LOSS TO MILLWALL?
There is a strong case that the change should have been made sooner.
After the 1-0 loss at home to Millwall on October 2, the home fans began to turn on the manager with negative chants against him then Callum Brittain questioned his training methods in his post-match press conference.
With the terraces and dressing room unsettled, and the Reds in the relegation zone without a win in nine, the board had the opportunity to make a change at the start of a two-week international break.
But they elected to keep Schopp in place.
They then lost four more games and fell three further points from safety before the change was made, leaving them more crucial ground to make up.
It was clearly felt that 11 games was too soon to sack a manager, especially given the injury crisis he was then dealing with. That is not an outrageous school of thought, but the reaction of players and fans coupled with the form and performances made a good case for a change.