BOBBY Hassell believes, if Barnsley stay up this season, it would surpass their previous ‘great escapes’ and says it has been ‘very, very difficult’ for his young academy players to move up to the first team this season.
The Reds are currently eight points from safety in the Championship’s bottom position, but teams above them have games in hand, while they have just two wins and 14 points from 24 games. Hassell – now the academy manager – was part of the squad that came back from seven points adrift under David Flitcroft in 2013 then watched Gerhard Struber’s side claw back a nine-point deficit with 14 games left in 2020.
“This would surpass all of them in my opinion,” Hassell told the Chronicle.
“I have been at the club 16 years in total and I have never seen the same amount of staff turnover as last summer.
“There are a lot of reasons for why we are where we are but we can’t keep going back to that, we have to support the players and staff – and so do the fans.
“They are capable of staying up.
“One win turns into two and three.
“Flicker did it, Struber did it after lockdown. They need to get some confidence back and a few additions in January hopefully. The club has done it before and could do it again.”
Barnsley have blooded several players this season from the youth system which Hassell oversees.
He said: “For all the academy boys coming in, it’s a very, very difficult situation.
“The team are struggling, not winning and lacking in confidence.
“It’s extremely hard to make your debut in that environment.
“You want to blood players when you’re winning but – because of the situation with the table, injuries and Covid – lads are coming in when they are perhaps not quite ready to play week in, week out.
“It’s an unforgiving league and a very tough league for Barnsley to stay in.
“I think it will stand them in good stead going forward if they can make it through this because it’s sink or swim for young players when they first get into the team. You always find out about yourself in situations like this.”
Jasper Moon, a 21-year-old defender who has been with the club for five years, has played in 20 of their 26 games this season. Hassell said: “Jasper is a prime example. He’s probably not ready to play week in, week out. He’s had good games and games where he’s really struggled.
“In an ideal world he would have only played five to ten games this season but he’s played a lot more through injuries, and loss of form for others.”
Relegation might lead to more appearances for some young players, but Hassell hopes Barnsley survive.
“It would be better for lads being introduced into the first team, because it’s a lot easier to play in League One.
“Only John Stones has really broken through in the Championship.
“But I would much rather we stay up, definitely, because we need it as a club.”
Hassell was watching from the stands on Saturday as Barnsley led 2-0 against ten men League Two Barrow at half-time before losing three leads then winning the FA Cup tie 5-4 in extra-time.
“At half-time it looked like they would win comfortably.
“They didn’t show the same attitude in the second half and let Barrow back into the game. Barrow dug in with ten men and Josh Kay, who I brought to Barnsley, did really well and scored the 4-4 goal.
“The positive is we’re in the next round and we won but the manager knows there is a lot to work on, especially with the mentality.
“It should have been a lot more positive than it was.”