MARTIN Devaney knows it will be a ‘tough, tough job’ to collect his first points as Barnsley caretaker at West Bromwich Albion, with top-scorer Carlton Morris expected to be added to the long injury list.
The Reds – who visit the Baggies in their final game of the season from 12.30pm on Saturday – will end the season last in the Championship while West Brom are tenth and could finish anywhere from ninth to 12th.
Barnsley have the worst away record in the EFL this season, with just eight points and one win from 22 matches.
Morris has a knee problem. Devaney said: “Carlton has a lot of quality and we’ve relied heavily on him this season in big moments. He’s a big loss but there’s no point me sulking about it.
“I have to make sure the lads who play are organised and ready. It’s looking highly unlikely that he will play.”
Aapo Halme, Aaron Leya Iseka, Mads Andersen, Remy Vita and Romal Palmer are all expected to miss the game through injury while Callum Brittain, Josh Benson and Devante Cole are big doubts but will be assessed on Friday.
The trip to the West Midlands will be Devaney’s third game as caretaker having lost at home to Blackpool and Preston. He said: “I would love to go and win the game, to perform really well and for Marshy (Aiden Marsh) to score a hat-trick, but we have to be realistic.
“It’s a tough, tough job.
“We will do our best. I am a competitor. It’s a massive task but it doesn’t faze me.
“I will be doing my utmost to make sure we’re as competitive as we can be and try to win the game. To get a positive result would be the icing on the cake after getting this role at a club I love.”
He added: “We have to show West Brom respect. They are a Premier League club with Premier League players that have maybe underachieved. They have won 17 games this season, we have won six. We will go there to do our best and make sure there is no fear. It’s a game we can win. These things do happen.”
A host of staff and players who were at Barnsley last season have since moved to West Brom but none of them will be involved.
Alex Mowatt and Daryl Dike are both injured while Valerien Ismael and his staff were sacked seven months after moving from Oakwell to The Hawthorns.
Mowatt, who was the Reds captain and star midfielder, left at the end of his contract last summer to follow Ismael to the West Midlands and played 34 games, with four goals, before undergoing surgery this month. American striker Dike, who shone on loan to the Reds last season, signed for the Baggies for a reported £8million in January from Orlando City but made just two appearances before his season was ended by injury.
One former Barnsley player who is likely to feature is goalkeeper David Button who played nine games on loan to the Reds in 2012.
West Brom have not had the season they were hoping for after dropping out of the Premier League a year ago.
After starting with a ten-game unbeaten run, Ismael was sacked on February 2, when the Baggies were fifth, but they had won just one of their last seven matches and many supporters were unhappy with his direct style of play.
He has since taken over at Turkish giants Besiktas, taking with him coach Adam Murray, sports scientist Jonny Northeast and analyst Jack Riley, who all worked with him at Barnsley and West Brom, as well as analyst Nathan Kirby who had stayed at Oakwell until last month.
Ismael was replaced at The Hawthorns by Steve Bruce who, after collecting just a point from his first five games, has now won five of his 16, including a 1-0 success at Reading on Saturday.
Bruce, one of the most experienced and successful managers in the Championship, has faced Barnsley 15 times with Sheffield United, Huddersfield, Crystal Palace, Birmingham, Hull and Aston Villa – winning seven and losing six.
Devaney said: “I am looking forward to coming up against him. His career has been fantastic as a player and a coach.”
The Baggies are the division’s fifth lowest scorers but have the fifth best defensive record. No side have lost fewer games at home in the Championship this season than West Brom. They were unbeaten in their first 13 home league matches of the season before Christmas but the last nine have brought three wins, three draws and three losses.
Only Sheffield United have conceded fewer home goals in the Championship this season than Albion’s 15 but just five clubs, all in the bottom seven, have scored fewer than their 29 on home soil.
West Brom have not beaten Barnsley in six attempts since 2007.
The last four meetings have been draws, with the most recent being a goalless stalemate at Oakwell in December when Ismael’s visitors saw three efforts cleared off the line. The Reds also drew 1-1 two seasons earlier, with a late leveller by Halme, having led 2-0 at The Hawthorns earlier that season under caretaker Murray, thanks to a Cauley Woodrow brace, before drawing 2-2.
The Reds have not won at the Hawthorns in six visits since their first match of the 21st century, on January 3 2000, with Darren Barnard’s brace securing a 2-0 victory.