AFTER the disappointing final quarter of last season and a, from the outside at least, chaotic search for a new head coach, just the appointment of a boss was important to put some positivity back into the fanbase.

The choice of Darrell Clarke, who is a very experienced and well thought-of, has, in general, gone down well.

In an East Midlands accent which could have come straight off the set of This Is England, he gave an impressive first interview.

He spoke about his promotion ambitions, style of play and willingness to work within the club’s strategy while recognising that data is only part of the picture – exactly what many Reds fans want to hear.

Most importantly, he came across as a confident, straight-talking boss who was thrilled to be given the opportunity.

Speaking to people who worked alongside him or watched his sides in the past, a picture emerges of a high-energy, high-pressing team in a 3-5-2, which obviously fits with Barnsley’s recent history.

But he is also described as an exceptional man-manager and adaptable coach who can make key adjustments before and within games to suit each opponent.

He must prove himself once the season starts but patience may be required on the terraces with a summer of change expected in the playing squad.

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That is the case most summers at Oakwell, so there will always be pre-Christmas teething problems before hopefully peaking in the new year.

One of the issues with Neill Collins – who was a team-mate of Clarke’s at Hartlepoool – was that his team were getting worse towards the end of the season and basics like defending set pieces unravelled.

The board believe Clarke will provide more consistency and a commitment to the style of play they think will win games for the club.

By all accounts, he is happy to let his assistant coaches do much of the detailed work with players on the training ground, so Martin Devaney is likely to play a key role.

Hourihane may provide experience Reds have lacked but would he fit into their style of play at 33?

If the appointment of a manager started to turn the fans’ feelings more positive, the return of Conor Hourihane would accelerate that significantly.

The Irish midfielder – who has been in talks over a return – is, other than maybe Adam Hammill, the most popular Barnsley player of the last decade – lifting two trophies for them at Wembley in 2016 before leaving the next January.

At 33, he does not have the engine and energy he had when dominating in midfield for Barnsley in his mid-20s and may not start every game.

But he did just play 41 of 46 matches – 32 from the start – while captaining a Derby team that won promotion, scoring five goals and adding eight assists.

He has achieved three promotions – losing in the Championship play-offs three other times – and played in the top flight and an EFL Cup final for Aston Villa.

In total he has played 580 career games, scoring 95 goals, and has 36 caps for the Republic of Ireland.

The Reds, during their poor final quarter of last season, needed some experience to guide them through.

If he signs, Hourihane may provide that, along with his set piece expertise, passing and long-range shooting. He could be a role model for his young team-mates to admire and learn from.

A midfield of Luca Connell, Adam Phillips and Hourihane would, in theory, delight Reds fans.

If he signs, the Reds will have gone away from their usual strategy of signing young players, naturally suited to high-energy pressing football, so it will be up to Clarke to make it work.

Sormaz hinting at quality not quantity then Clarke getting more out of fringe and youth players

Barnsley have plenty of work to do in the transfer window.

Sporting director Mladen Sormaz has said the budget will be ‘significantly bigger’ this season than last. The Reds are understood to have cut back in other areas so they can commit greater resources to the first team wagebill and transfer kitty, while the owners are putting in millions in equity every year.

The release of a series of highly-paid players, while leaving big gaps to fill in the squad, frees up substantial money for their replacements.

The Reds have a sporting director unburdened by non-footballing responsibilities, after the chief executive role was split, and a head coach in place ten weeks before the start of the season.

Unusually, they do not have any first team regulars with a contract offer pending so they know the basis of the squad they are trying to add to.

That is a good basis from which to start.

But they are unlikely to be the highest spenders in a brutal-looking league in which the number of clubs will realistic promotion ambitions could be in double figures.

When you include loanees, six of their seven top appearance-makers from last season have left and three of their four top-scorers.

The immediate priorities will be a midfielder, goalkeeper, striker and left wing-back then they will continue to assess the squad again.

There appears to be the spine of a good team with the likes of Connell and Phillips in midfield in-between Donovan Pines – if he can stay fit to partner Mael de Gevigney and Josh Earl – and striker Sam Cosgrove who was outstanding in the play-offs after a generally disappointing league campaign.

Four high-quality signings who can make an immediate impact on the 11 would turn them into real promotion contenders. Other than that, Sormaz suggested there would not be the massive recruitment drive many expect, with Clarke challenged to get more out of some of the existing fringe players and talented academy products.

Barnsley determined to keep hold of star players but we have been here so many times before

Sormaz said the intention was for Barnsley to keep all their star players and that only ‘silly money’ would tempt them to sell.

That is familiar rhetoric from previous summers which almost always end with at least one sale.

The Reds are in a strong position with Phillips, Connell and teenage star Fabio Jalo all contracted until at least 2027, while they insist they are not in the financial situation in which they have to sell a star player.

If an offer such as the £4.5million deal for Liam Kitching last summer comes in and one of them leaves, that is the philosophy of the club which most fans either accept or at least are used to.

Those players would be difficult to replace – even if 18-year-old Jalo is more of a potential star at this point – and the Reds would need to recruit very well.

More than one of them leaving would be a huge blow but, based on history and the talent of those players, it would be prudent and realistic to assume there is a good chance of one being sold.

Others could also leave.

Josh Benson, who has had a torrid time with injury, and Euros-bound Callum Styles are two of the highest-paid players at the club.

The Reds will be hoping Styles impresses in Germany and some big offers come in – which might make it easier to keep the likes of Connell and Phillips.

If not, Styles may return for another uncertain summer with one more year left on his contract.

Max Watters is also on a long and lucrative contract but finished the season as sixth choice striker, with Oli Shaw and Andy Dallas returning after goalless loans.

Centre-backs Conor McCarty, Kacper Lopata and Jack Shepherd – who played under Clarke at Cheltenham – also return from loans and may look to subvert the assumption that de Gevigney, Pines and Earl are the back three.

Some of those will be moved on and others given a second chance but the Reds must make swift and sensible choices.