A player by player review of Barnsley's 2023/24 season.

– Stats for League One games, including play-offs

Jordan Williams, 47 starts (1 sub appearance), 1 goal

Williams is the first outfield player to appear 200 times for Barnsley in more than a decade and has gone from signing as an 18-year-old to captaining the Reds this season aged 24.

He has been a good servant overall but, should he leave this summer after his contract expires, at least part of his legacy will be the many errors he made out of position at right centre-back this season.

Having impressed last season at right wing-back, he was moved into the back three after injuries and recruitment decisions left Neill Collins few other options. Williams struggled aerially against tall strikers then, with confidence seemingly drained, began to make uncharacteristic mistakes such as poor clearances or losing the ball when trying to dribble out – often leading to goals. Although his pace helped at the back at times, the experiment did not work and cost the Reds many points.

Williams eventually returned to right wing-back in spring but has been back in the back three recently, performing better until the catastrophic error in the play-off first leg. Williams – who took over from Liam Kitching as captain in September – had played every minute of the season before being dropped to the bench against Cheltenham in March, days after scoring a superb only goal of the season at Carlisle.

He has made the most tackles of any Reds player – almost double the next most – and the most interceptions. He made the sixth most tackles in the league.

Devante Cole, 43 (5), 18

The striker finished with the most goals in a league campaign since Sam Winnall in 2016/17 and is one of the club’s top-scorers in the 21st century.

He looked likely to compete for the division’s golden boot when he raced to 17 by early February but scored just once in his final 18 games which saw him dropped from the 11 for some matches and sarcastically cheered by his own fans when taken off in others.

That was a harsh reaction by supporters to the league’s third most prolific striker and when other players were often performing just as poorly. Cole’s lethal finishing from relatively few chances in the first two thirds of the season was a principal reason the Reds were competing for promotion but his goal drought in recent months was a key factor in their slump.

There was speculation that he would leave in January but there are understood to have been no real approaches for him. He is out of contract this summer, having only missed one league or play-off match in the last two seasons – when rested for a dead rubber at MK Dons in April last year.

Herbie Kane, 42 (1), 9

This has been, by far, the best goal-scoring season of the midfielder’s career with ten in all competitions.

That is partly because he has clinically dispatched four out of four penalties but also because he has had more of the ball and been more attacking, netting some fine long-range goals too.

Kane also provided five assists and made the most ‘key passes’ of any Barnsley player which lead to a shot. He was very good for most of the season but dipped, like many others, in the final months – after serving a two-game ban for ten bookings.

His best form had come in December and January immediately after a strange pre-match interview in which he gave one-word answers to several questions, and was lambasted by some fans for a perceived poor attitude which he never displayed on the pitch.

Another who is out of contract this summer.

Nicky Cadden, 40 (6), 2

A second season of regular football for the Scottish left wing-back. He was less effective overall than last season, potentially missing the presence of Liam Kitching behind him in both defence and attack.

Cadden made the second most inaccurate crosses in the division and 32nd most accurate crosses.

But he still made the second most key passes of any Reds player behind Kane.

He delivered possibly his best performance of the season in the first leg of the play-offs.

Cadden scored twice in the league and added five assists but most were in the first half of the season when was in and out of the team with Owen Dodgson and Callum Styles sometimes preferred. He has been the only player in his position since January.

Like the other players so far on this list, the 26-year-old is out of contract this summer.

Mael de Gevigney, 40 (2), 2

An average first season overall for the French centre-back, who Barnsley will now be hoping becomes their next star asset in that position.

After a tough full debut in August when he was taken off before half-time having conceded a penalty and almost been sent off, he played for the under 21s for several weeks before returning to the first team and starting the last 37 consecutive league games and both in the play-offs. He had many good games defensively and contributed on the attack with his pressing as well two goals and four assists.

But he scored a terrible own goal at home to Cambridge in March, in a mix-up with Liam Roberts, and was beaten too easily for others as he was another to struggle in recent weeks. He is in the top ten for the most fouled players in the division.

Liam Roberts, 40

The loanee goalkeeper had a brilliant start to his Reds career, single-handedly securing regular points with incredible saves which made him extremely popular with fans as did his passionate post-match celebrations.

Only Jay Lynch of relegated Fleetwood Town has had to make more saves per game in the division.

But mistakes eventually crept into Roberts’ game, not just in his weaker areas of kicking and commanding his box, but eventually he started letting in shots he would easily have saved before Christmas. He has not been a reliable presence in goal in recent months, making another crucial error in Bolton on Tuesday.

The Reds were keen to sign him permanently in January and he is a free agent this summer.

John McAtee, 33 (9), 12

The Luton loanee has been one of the iconic figures of this season, winning fans’ love with his spectacular long-range goals, acrobatic backflip celebrations and all-action performances. The recruitment department deserve some credit since his record of four goals for Grimsby in League Two last season did not suggest he would make such a major impact in the third tier.

This was his first season as a striker, having been an attacking midfielder before, and he missed some big chances throughout. Strangely, only two of his 15 goals in all competitions were at Oakwell.

He could have left for a Championship club in January but chose to stay with the Reds in the hope of experiencing a promotion. He is expected to be playing in the second tier next season.

Adam Phillips, 37 (7), 12

For the second season in a row, the midfielder had a quiet first half of the campaign before starring in the second. Having been sent off in last year’s play-off final, he was banned for the first three games of the season then struggled for form until December.

Player of the Year Phillips finished with 11 goals and six assists in the league, after recording eight and nine respectively last season. His four headed goals were among the most in the league, while he added long-range strikes and goals after bursting into the box, also producing some excellent passes and crosses. He bagged braces in successive home games in February against Leyton Orient – who led until 88 minutes but lost 2-1 – then promotion rivals Derby.

He is one of the players who seems most likely to attract bids in the summer but he is under contract until 2026 with the club having a year option.

Corey O’Keeffe, 26 (15), 3

The right wing-back joined after finishing bottom with Forest Green Rovers and has experienced his first promotion challenge. He recorded six league assists, the joint most for the Reds this season, and three goals.

After struggling to make much impact in the first half of the season, O’Keeffe often played well towards the end of the campaign – only to find himself dropped by Collins immediately.

He blocked the most passes of any Barnsley player but was also dribbled past the most.

Luca Connell, 25 (1), 1

Not the second season at Oakwell the star midfielder had hoped for. He missed the first three months due to post-viral fatigue then sat out later games here and there due to less serious illnesses or injury.

Starting only half the league games, he has struggled to recreate the same performances as last season as consistently.

It is obviously more difficult to play defensive midfield in front of a less effective defence than last season.

He had a spell in a more attacking role before Collins was sacked then returned to being the midfield anchor for the play-offs. Despite a tough season, he is another who may attract interest but is contracted until 2027.

Jamie McCart, 24 (2)

The Scottish defender spent the season on loan from Rotherham United. He could have returned to the Millers in January but chose to stay with the Reds and has since mainly been a substitute.That was first due to the arrival of Donovan Pines then more recently because Williams has been back in the back three.

McCart came on on 88 minutes at Portsmouth and was partly at fault for the winner seconds later. He didn’t play again. Ultimately it has been a fairly underwhelming signing without him being a spectacular failure. McCart suffered from comparisons to predecessors such as Mads Andersen and Liam Kitching who are far above the usual standard for League One.

A good character and likeable person, he was part of the defence when they had an impressive record pre-Christmas. He is still contracted to relegated Rotherham but has been made available for transfer.

Jon Russell, 23 (8), 3

The midfielder started as many league games as Luca Connell, due mainly to Connell’s absences.

He was much better when given a run of games than when asked to come in cold after not playing – so is not really suited to being Connell’s stand-in. The Jamaica international had some very poor games, especially at home, such as the January loss to Exeter, but also some good performances away such as the win at Oxford – in which he was the only fit midfielder – and at Carlisle where he scored the winner. He has, by far, the best pass completion rate of any Barnsley player while his extra height in midfield helped them.

Russell got back into the team in March in holding midfield, with Connell in a more attacking role, but missed most of April with injury. He returned for the play-offs but did not get off the bench.

Josh Earl, 20

The defender signed on the final day of the January window from Fleetwood Town, who would be relegated, and went straight into a promotion fight.

He impressed at first with his defensive work and passing ability but, since being at fault for both Wycombe’s goals in an early-March win and conceding the late penalty against Bolton, has struggled badly for consistency. He often loses the ball or is beaten easily by wingers with pace and trickery.

Earl has the attributes to be a solid League One defender and perhaps should be judged more after a full pre-season at Oakwell.

Callum Styles, 16 (4), 3

Another weird campaign in the Hungary international’s highly unusual career. The 24-year-old missed out on a move in the summer so played the first half of the season for the Reds, in and out of the 11 in different positions and only very occasionally resembling the star man of three campaigns prior.

He joined Sunderland on loan in the January window, despite coming down with illness on the day he was supposed to move, and has played 12 Championship games. He did not play in a home win.

There is a buy clause in the loan deal but it is so far unclear if Sunderland will activate it. He has a year remaining on his Reds contract and is expected to be part of the Hungary squad for next month’s Euros.

Barry Cotter 14 (22), 3

Three goals and five assists is a decent return for a wing-back who started less than a third of Barnsley’s games. The Irishman, 25, certainly adds pace and explosiveness, as well as a long throw, but is yet to show he can be relied upon consistently defensively or with his crossing and passing in attack.

He job-shared with O’Keeffe in the first half of the season but has started just four league games since November, often being brought on by Collins in more attacking roles.

Sam Cosgrove 10 (24), 6

The big striker signed to great fanfare at the end of the summer window after winning League One with Plymouth last season. Clearly not making double figures for league starts and only netting three league goals was a major disappointment. His physicality and size caused problems for opponents in some games but he was another inconsistent performer, not imposing himself at all on other matches. Even when he was playing well, he missed too many big chances.

He broke into the side in March then was often an unused substitute in April before scoring in the play-off first leg then adding another two plus an assist in the away game. His sensational performances in the play-offs must now be replicated more often next season.

Cosgrove, 27, provided four league assists plus one of the strangest moments of the season when his injury-time winner against Wycombe in November saw him bump into goalkeeper Max Stryjek who dropped the ball for Cosgrove to tap into an empty net.

Max Watters 9 (15), 3

The Reds signed the striker for an undisclosed fee from Cardiff last summer and handed him a three-year contact, with an option for a fourth until 2027, after an average loan spell last season. He scored in three away league matches and at home to Horsham in the FA Cup. But he generally struggled to make an impact on games and dropped to bench then out of squad.

His only appearance since January was in the home loss to Cambridge which was his 50th Reds game.

Although some of his fellow strikers are expected to leave this summer, Watters’ future chances at Oakwell look limited unless a third head coach gets much more from him than Michael Duff or Collins could.

Kacper Lopata, 9 (4)

The first signing of last summer started the first nine league games and generally impressed but broke his collarbone at Northampton in September and never regained place in the 11. The centre-back, 22, made some substitute appearances score being loaned to relegation-bound Port Vale where he played six more times amid injuries.

Ben Killip, 8

The back-up goalkeeper was given a big opportunity to sign for a League One team having been relegated from League Two with Hartlepool, where he was also on the bench. He has been solid when called upon and is potentially a more rounded goalkeeper than Roberts, but less of a spectacular shot-stopper. The Reds have an option to add an extra year to his deal.

Jack Shepherd, 6 (3)

The defender gave up his job as a kitchen-fitter to turn professional after leaving Pontefract Collieries.

He was expected to play for the under 21s but started six first team games. He had some impressive matches and showed promise but also some nightmares like at Bradford in the EFL Trophy, where he was sent off, and Carlisle at home in the league.

He was loaned to Cheltenham in January, playing 12 games and scoring his first professional goal but experiencing relegation from League One. It will have been a great learning season for the 23-year-old.

Liam Kitching, 4, 1

The defender was named captain after Mads Andersen was sold, then he was sold himself on deadline day to Coventry City for a fee rising to £4.5million. Chairman Neerav Parekh had said he could guarantee Kitching would not leave but the offer was seen as too good to turn down. Kitching scored a fine volley on the opening day but was a shadow of himself for the rest of August with a move looming. He has been a regular for Coventry alongside his former Reds team-mates Bobby Thomas and Brad Collins, with all three starting in the FA Cup semi-final thriller against Manchester United in April.

Owen Dodgson, 4 (6)

The left-back joined on loan from Burnley and scored on his debut in the EFL Trophy. But he soon became third choice behind Cadden and Styles, not playing a league game for almost two months then being recalled in January. He joined Dundee and made 13 appearances.

Donovan Pines, 3 (1), 2

For someone who played only 301 minutes of football for the Reds, the American had a massive impact. He arrived in January, having not played for five months, then took several weeks to get ready but impressed once he played, adding the aerial prowess Barnsley had missed all season and scoring two important goals while becoming a fan favourite. But he hurt his thigh against Bolton on March 5, before netting in the same game, and needed to have surgery which ruled him out for the campaign.

Conor Grant, 2 (12), 1

There was surprise when the Reds signed the Irish midfielder, who had not been playing for MK Dons in League Two, right at the end of the January window. He made an impact off the bench, scoring a fine goal at Wycombe, but then played just two minutes in a month before starting in Collins’ last two games. He was back on the bench under Martin Devaney but excellent performances in the play-offs, assisting Cosgrove in each game, suggested it could be worth the Reds going through with the buy clause in his deal.

Josh Benson, 1 (5)

The midfielder’s injury hell continued this season. He briefly returned from the problem he picked up at Wembley last May but then was out again from November until appearing on the bench in March but soon sustained another injury. Benson – who has started three league games, all away, in 17 months – has a year remaining of his contract which is thought to be one of the most lucrative at the club.

Theo Chapman, 1 (3)

The teenage former TV actor and child model was involved frequently in the opening weeks of the season with other midfielders unavailable. He was given his first start at home to Blackpool in September but taken off at half-time then has not played since, instead being loaned out to non-league Farsley Celtic and then spending some time out injured.

Andy Dallas, 1 (3), 1

A very strange season for the Scottish striker.

He signed in the summer on a three-year deal, scored a diving header on debut, was involved throughout August, but loaned out just 38 days after signing.

He didn’t score or start for loan club Kilmarnock, coming off the bench 15 times, then was sent to non-league Oldham in January.

Having been loaned from Solihull to Chesterfield at the end of the previous season, that made it five clubs in ten months. He did not net for Oldham in seven starts and seven substitute appearances, so is without a goal in 33 games.

Fabio Jalo, 0 (15), 1

The 18-year-old striker continues to be a highly-rated prospect on the fringes of the first 11.

He scored against Horsham in the FA Cup and, after being left out by Collins in the early months, made some substitute appearances in the league before missing almost three months with injury.

Despite playing just 255 league minutes this season, which is less than three full games, he has been one of the few bright sparks in the final weeks.

He netted his first league goal against Reading and was denied others at Charlton and Blackpool by the officials. Contracted until 2027, with a further year option, he is a regular for Portugal under 19s and monitored by top flight clubs in England and abroad.

Jalo could play a major role next season if he remains at the club.

Aiden Marsh, 0 (9), 0

The striker from Monk Bretton has been a semi-regular figure on the bench before and after a short loan to York, looking fairly lively at times but missing a few chances. He was played at Horsham in the cup when ineligible so the Reds were kicked out. The club have the option to add an extra year to his deal which makes sense with a local lad who turned 21 this week and has been often involved with the first team.

Oli Shaw 0 (3), 0

Another disappointing striker signing. Having arrived the previous January, but failed to break into promotion-chasing team, it was hoped he would kick on following a first full pre-season with the Reds.

Shaw, 26, came off the bench in the league in August, and started in the EFL Cup against Tranmere, before moving to Motherwell on loan.

He stayed at the SPL club all season apart from a brief spell when he returned to Oakwell injured in January before going back.

He has not scored in 19 appearances for Motherwell but only two have been starts and, like at Barnsley, he has often come on for just a few minutes late on in games. He has not scored in his last 39 appearances across almost two years and still has a year on his Barnsley contract. Motherwell still have three games left this season.

Kyran Lofthouse, 0 (1)

He became the fourth right wing-back in the squad after signing last summer following a spell at Woking.

Lofthouse, 23, came off the bench on 89 minutes at Bristol Rovers in August then was loaned to non-league Gateshead and then MK Dons, for whom he has been playing in the League Two play-offs this week. Having performed well at the top end of the league below, he could be in contention to play for the Reds next season but will have competition.