POYA Asbaghi accepts that most people outside of Oakwell will have written Barnsley off as relegated but his first full week of training with the squad has strengthened his belief that they will stay in the Championship.
The second-bottom Reds’ 0-0 draw at third-bottom Peterborough United on Saturday left them eight points adrift of safety. They have 12 points from 20 games, their joint lowest ever tally at that point in a season, ahead of tomorrow’s home Yorkshire derby with Huddersfield Town.
Asbaghi said: “Most people have counted us out. They did it almost before I arrived. But if there is one person who is confident, it is me.
“Usually you are judged by your last results, even if you are leading the championship. Since we have had poor results, that affects the feeling of where we might end up but, if we start winning, everybody starts thinking ‘maybe they can do it’.
“It is up to us to create better results so there is a positive atmosphere around Barnsley.
“We care about what our fans think.
“But every fan of Barnsley that is worried wouldn’t want us to sit down in the locker room and be worried.
“They want to hear that we are super- confident and know what to work on.
“If I was a fan, I would like to see a team that knows what they have to do.
“In this situation, when things are not going well and a lot of people are criticising you, it is easy just to lie down and die.
“But if you keep going, not only will you start to win games, but you will develop a lot mentally.”
On the eight-point gap to safety, Asbaghi said: “I cannot be the one looking at the table.
“I understand the fans are, they have a total right to do that.
“I am aware of the situation.
“We were in it before I arrived.
“But if I focus on the table it means I focus on things I cannot control.
“I cannot control how our opponents play or how many wins they get.
“I have to focus on our team.
“Then we will see how much they improve and we can look at the table after the last game of the season.”
Asbaghi has worked with the players all week in training for the first time.
“I am getting more confidence every day in training that the players will develop into a better team.
“They are adapting really well to the things we have mentioned. They have the ability to adapt and learn. We cannot wait too long for them to learn because of our situation. But you can see we are going in the right direction.
“If we train and play like this week then I am not worried that we will develop enough to get the points we need. The level in training has been good but we have to maintain it. This can sometimes be lost in a team that is losing because players who don’t play will think ‘why am I not playing?’ and players who are playing lose energy.”
Asbaghi arrived on Monday of last week then took charge of two games in his first five days. The Reds now have four weeks, including this one, with no midweek match so there will be extra time to work in training.
“It is definitely good for us.
“We have more time between the games now because, in the first week, we had almost no training because the players were recovering from the games and preparing for the next one. This week we have had more regular training and not only about the plan for the next game.
“I have been able to work on our identity in possession and out of possession.
“We will spend a lot of time together in the next weeks.
“This week has been good. We can concentrate on our game model, our identity and our roles on the pitch.
“It has helped us a lot and we will get more of these weeks. It’s a big difference to last week because we could start it with really good training about us and what we want, before focusing on Huddersfield later in the week.
“If you look at the confidence today in training, it has improved from a couple of weeks ago. When the players know their roles more and what is expected of them, they can concentrate on that and gain experience and confidence.
“I have seen signs of this during this week but we need to do this in games.
“If we fail with one pass or attack or concede a chance or goal, we can’t let this affect us as much as it has done.”
Asbaghi says the players should relish the challenge of trying to stay in the Championship.
“You have to love and enjoy the situation. It’s high-level football and, even if the situation is a challenge, most people who love football would swap places with you at any time to be at a Championship club. Maybe the players forget this but I can point out maybe one million people around the world who want to be playing at this level.”
Asbaghi’s team was very defensive in the first two games under him but have been working this week on being better on the attack. The Reds are the lowest scorers in the division with 13 in 20 matches. He said: “Of course we need to score more goals. When we look at our last game, we were compact and didn’t concede so many chances but we need to mix this with being even better at punishing our opponents and pushing them back for a long time.
“A lot of things happen to footballers hone they start scoring.”
Tomorrow’s visitors the Terriers are eighth in the table, five points outside the top six with 28 from 20 games.
“It is a well-organised and hard-working team. They work well as a collective and have pretty good players in the build-up. They have a clear picture of how they want to create chances. There are weaknesses in their structure and individual weaknesses which we can use but, if we don’t, they have quality.
“I am looking forward to it. We hope it brings a lot of fans, that is what we play for. I am looking forward to a good atmosphere and hopefully three points.”