BARNSLEY’S relegation to League One was confirmed in Huddersfield on Friday, 366 days after they visited the same stadium and won to remain fifth, then confirming their Championship play-off place later in the week.
It was 335 days after they were knocked out of play-offs at Swansea City, ending a behind-closed-doors fairytale that soon became an in-front-of-your-eyes nightmare this season.
It was 297 days since head coach Valerien Ismael left the club, with chief executive Dane Murphy departing at the same time – after the duo had got all departments working together in a way rarely seen at Oakwell. Each took staff members with them, while long-serving unsung heroes such as physio Craig Sedgwick – who saw the relegation up close as he is now with Huddersfield – moved on, with the number of backroom staff leaving nearing double figures.
Murphy was replaced, for the majority of the summer window, by co-owner Paul Conway who apparently has financed several Hollywood films. This season he produced a horror film – a remake of ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’.
He made a series of failed signings, blowing a large portion of the budget on blundering, big-earning Belgians Obbi Oulare and Aaron Leya Iseka, and rushed into the appointment of the disastrous Markus Schopp – while moving away from the club’s data-driven processes.
The Reds abandoned a successful style of play which allegedly did not attract big bids for players, and did not sign an experienced midfielder – a huge error.
There are mutinous mutterings across Conway and Chien Lee’s pan-European empire of clubs, with smokebombs in Nancy and alleged interference in Esbjerg team selection. Conway cannot be held responsible for everything that has gone wrong this season at Oakwell. He has not been on the pitch or in the dugout during some pathetic performances and results, but many of his decisions at least partly led to them.
Friday was 172 days since Schopp was sacked, following a horrible spell in which he won one in 16 and was totally out of his depth, so really should have been removed earlier than Halloween.
It was 153 days since Poya Asbaghi was appointed, fractionally improving results and performances but frustrating supporters with his tactics and decisions.
He left after overseeing Barnsley’s third relegation in eight years, as many as in the previous 49. They have collected just six points from losing positions all season, have the fewest goals in the Championship with 32 – currently a joint club record – and the worst away record in the EFL with one win in 22.
They have lost more games, 28, than the age of their oldest player.
They are last, below a Derby County side deducted 21 points.
Last season they conceded the fewest shots on goal but now are among the highest in that ranking, while they were second top scorers from set pieces last season but have only netted in one game from corners this campaign.
Looking through the regular starting 11, player for player, it would be harsh to label any of them a ‘bad signing.’
But they lost key men last summer in Alex Mowatt and Daryl Dike, who were never properly replaced, have been unlucky with injuries at times, and only really Brad Collins and Carlton Morris have matched last season’s standards. The squad badly lacks depth.
So what now? The Reds will be in the Papa John’s Trophy, the first round of the FA Cup, taking Forest Green, Exeter and, potentially, Sutton United, and playing through the winter World Cup while the Championship clubs get a break.
There are likely to be many changes in a tumultuous summer as they are hit by a roughly £7million loss from relegation, and a big drop in season ticket sales, while aiming to find a coach and team that can put wins on the board and smiles in the stands.
The regretful, bitter hangover from the last year may take some time to shift.