David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘Barnsley’ Category

Relegated Reds Will Provide More Entertainment

Friday, May 30th, 2014


I have said this to a number of people over the last few weeks and not one of them believes me, but relegation for Barnsley last season did not disappoint me too much. There have been some highlights in the eight seasons since returning to the Championship, but they may just be a bit more regular at League One level.

In truth, the recent spell in English football’s second tier has been something of a grind. Of course there have been memorable victories and incredible moments. The escape from relegation last year at Huddersfield will never be forgotten, but that summed up Barnsley’s existence in the Championship.

Successes came when the side upset the odds, battled hard to defeat a better side or edged away from the bottom three at the last moment. Much, much more often were one-sided defeats or dull contests in which Barnsley were the harder-working team, but could not get the better of a side with much more quality about them.

It may just be that in League One, the Reds are on the other side of things for a change. Teams will fear coming to Oakwell and Barnsley will be going into more matches than not as the favourites.

Most importantly, there will be more wins to celebrate for the fans that have sat through endless losses in recent years. The season just gone, Barnsley won just nine games, losing 25 of them. This is 25 afternoons or evenings in which fans have blown £25 to go and watch shoddy football and go home miserable. The standard will clearly be no better, but the whole experience might just be a bit more enjoyable this coming season.

In terms of expectations, nothing can be predicted until the extensive rebuilding of the squad has taken place. 14 players have been released, many of these inconsequential, but the likes of Kelvin Etuhu and Paddy McCourt would have been useful in League One. More importantly, players the club are trying to keep hold of could leave, most notably top scorer Chris O’Grady and midfield terrier Stephen Dawson.

With the squad as it is, the Reds could put out a decent first XI but there would be nothing in reserve. At least five players must be brought in of the quality to be playing in the starting line-up, at least two of those must be up front. If O’Grady does leave then the striking options are few and far between, who Danny Wilson brings in could well determine how Barnsley do this season. Find a 15-20 goal man at League One level and it could be top six, fail to do so and it looks unlikely.

Whether it is a glorious, immediate return to the Championship or not, it would be a big surprise if the Reds do not make the top half. The likes of Dale Jennings, Jim O’Brien and Tomasz Cywka (if retained) should be tearing up League One defences and should provide plenty of entertainment for the fans who have suffered for eight seasons.

There might be fewer supporters in the stands at this level, but those who have stayed will be going home happier a lot more often than they did last season.

Written by Phil Haigh, We Are Going Up’s Barnsley blogger

Phil tweets at @philhaigh_

Wilson latest to be charged with working miracles

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014


There were mixed feelings around Oakwell when Danny Wilson returned to the club in mid-December and five games into the second coming of the Messiah those sentiments still exist.

One win from five contests hardly represents a stellar turnaround in form but two clean sheets in those matches is in fact a big improvement given that the Reds managed just one in 20 beforehand. This may well be the vast experience of Wilson paying off where those with less know-how that came before him have failed.

It cannot be ignored though that there have already been two more home defeats under Wilson  and the side are still rooted to the bottom of the Championship table. The former Northern Irish international has also employed a pretty risky strategy in the transfer market putting the vast majority of the squad up for sale.

Scott Wiseman, David Perkins, Jim McNulty and Chris Dagnall have already been shown the exit door and there could be one or two more following them before the end of January. In their place have come Ryan McLaughlin and Brek Shea on loan whilst Liam Lawrence has signed on a free transfer.

The two loanees from the Premier League are largely unknown qualities but have shown promising signs early on whilst Lawrence, surprisingly only just 32, could turn out to be a very shrewd signing.

Shea and McLaughlin join Marcus Pedersen and Peter Ramage on loan at Oakwell which suggests the club are hardly looking long-term in their planning. This is no change from the norm though with every season since the return to the Championship in 2006 being about avoiding relegation and little else.

Wilson is simply the next on an ever-growing list of managers brought in to work a miracle in keeping the team up and then attempt to maintain it the following season. David Flitcroft produced the ultimate escape act last year but when he could not maintain those performances at the start of this season he was dismissed, the same as Keith Hill, Simon Davey and to a lesser extent Mark Robins before him.

These men have received little reward for their efforts and ironically it could be that Wilson is given more time than they ever were for failing to achieve what they did. In all likelihood Barnsley will be relegated this season but, bar a complete capitulation, Danny will most likely keep his job. As long as he competes in the upper echelons of League One, which he has a good record of doing, then he will hang onto the role still further and potentially return to the Championship a hero again.

Whether the Messiah can work a miracle or not, he is set for a longer stint at the helm than any of the mere mortals before him.

Written by Phil Haigh, We Are Going Up’s Barnsley blogger

Phil tweets at @philhaigh_

Unheard of optimism surrounds Oakwell

Thursday, August 1st, 2013


It has been a summer of big change at Barnsley, not so much in the playing staff but behind the scenes where the club has been revamped and these ambitious developments could just see the Reds not involved in a relegation scrap for the first time in years.

With the arrival of former Manchester United director Maurice Watkins as chairman and Ben Mansford the charismatic young agent as chief executive there is a whole new feel about the club. Along with the uber-passionate manager David Flitcroft signing a permanent contract and Barnsley seem to be heading in a new and hopefully more successful direction.

Of course there is only so much excitement a fan will draw from boardroom change and what we really want from the summer is firstly some rousing new signings, secondly not to lose any big players and thirdly to see some encouraging performances in friendlies; Barnsley have delivered on all three of these fronts.

Firstly the arrival of Dale Jennings from Bayern Munich grabbed the most headlines and he does look to have all the pace and tricks that fans at Oakwell were hoping for. Lewin Nyatanga and Jean-Yves M’voto look like good additions to the back line and every single Barnsley fan is delighted to see Chris O’Grady sign a permanent deal after his superb loan spell last season.

Before any players came in it was a question of resigning a number of key men who had come to the end of their contracts and, after a few scares, this was achieved with the likes of Luke Steele, Martin Cranie and Kelvin Etuhu all committing themselves to the club and not a single player who was offered terms rejecting them.

Finally the pre-season campaign again proved the forward thinking of the new regime. Gone are the pointless kick-abouts against non-league sides and in come tough tests against top European sides. Clashes with Club Brugge, Steaua Bucharest and Bordeaux all proved to be great workouts and only yielded one defeat against the impressive French side. Two more contests with Wolves and

Rotherham and the team look to be fit, confident and playing well ahead of the start of the season.

One issue is that Flitcroft has made it clear that he wants to add to his attacking options with his current first choice pair being O’Grady and Chris Dagnell who in all honesty will not quite cut it over a Championship season. Most fans would agree that just one more signing in this position and the squad will be ready to go and if the strongly linked Aaron McLean does indeed arrive then it would be very pleasing.

Once again the bookmakers expect Barnsley to be struggling at the foot of the table and it would yet again be a surprise if the Tykes are in the Championship again next season but that is certainly not the feeling at Oakwell. David Flitcroft’s record since taking over in January has been sensational and whilst few fans think there will be a play-off push, plenty are confident that there will be no battle at the bottom this time around.

Wigan at home in the first game of the season will be a tricky first test for Flitcroft at the start of his first full season in charge, but an encouraging start and his vibrant side might just start to change some opinions around the country.

Written by Phil Haigh, We Are Going Up’s Barnsley blogger

Phil tweets at @philhaigh_

More than a Flicker of hope

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

There may have been no accolades or trophies for David Flitcroft to celebrate come the end of the season, not even a manager of the month award to put on the mantelpiece, but ask anyone in Barnsley which manager deserves more plaudits than any this year then it would be the man known as Flicker.

At the end of December Keith Hill was relieved of his duties at Oakwell with the side rock bottom of the Championship with just 21 points from 25 games and four points away from safety. The board’s first two choices to fill the void were Sean O’Driscoll and then Terry Butcher but despite very generous offers to both being made, neither were tempted by the prospect of almost certain relegation to League One.

Flitcroft had been Hill’s right hand man at Oakwell and many thought would leave with him but he came in to fill his boots and take on what was seemingly an impossible task. It was an inauspicious start with a loss away at Peterborough but then the revolution truly began.

There were team bonding trips abroad and at home, inspirational videos made for under-performing strikers and a couple of clever signings amongst all sorts of other goings on behind the scenes that changed the fortunes of what seemed to be a doomed side.

Since Flitcroft’s move into the hot seat the Tykes played 25 times in all competitions, winning 11 of them, drawing eight and losing just six times. This not only saw the side edge out of the relegation zone, but enjoy a run to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup which was a welcome boost to the coffers of a perpetually skint club.

In the 21 league matches Flicker was in charge of he gained 34 points compared to the 21 from 25 games garnered before his promotion. Anyone who saw Barnsley during the second half of the season (except maybe Charlton fans) would not have seen a side destined for the drop but one with a tremendous work ethic and more than enough quality to compete in the Championship.

It was probably the tempo the team played at that Flitcroft improved the most but if you were to pinpoint an area of the pitch that was boosted most by his premiership it would be the forwards. Chris Dagnall went from a man looking hopelessly out of his depth in the Championship to making it to double figures for the campaign and bringing in the pair of Chris O’Grady and Jason Scotland in January was an inspired move. Neither had the fans bristling with excitement on arrival but both have been superb, especially O’Grady, as each netted six times in the fight to stay in the division.

There may well have been more than just a bit of luck about the final game of the season with Peterborough capitulating against Crystal Palace but if the Flitcroft regime had gone down having made 55 points then that would have been viewed as incredibly unlucky in itself.

Yet again Barnsley have stared relegation in the face and cheated the drop at the last moment, but this time it will be with optimism rather than pessimism that fans will be awaiting the next campaign. Yes the side only finished fourth bottom, but carry the form of the second half of the season into the next then it will be the top six and not the bottom four that the side will be concerned with. A few well-judged signings at the back and up front and there could be plenty to cheer about at Oakwell next year.

Written by Phil Haigh, We Are Going Up’s Barnsley blogger

Phil tweets at @philhaigh_

Over the Hill

Friday, January 4th, 2013

It may be an old cliché, but unfortunately it is very much the case in the football world that it is a results business and when the results are bad the manager is dismissed; but sometimes there may just need to be a bit more thought into it than that.

Moving to Barnsley from Rochdale was no easy decision for Keith Hill and his partner in crime David Flitcroft; they were loved at Spotland having brought unparalleled success to a club unaccustomed to it. Yes Barnsley were a step up in terms of division and club stature, but with no money to spend and every bookie in the land constantly backing the team for relegation it is not necessarily the most attractive prospect.

Hill took the leap of faith though knowing how tough it was going to be and in his first season he performed admirably, achieving his one and only goal of avoiding relegation, whilst making a very tidy profit for the club in selling Jacob Butterfield and Ricardo Vaz Te.

This time around his canny looking signings have not paid off and the likes of Mido, Jacob Mellis and Kelvin Etuhu are proving to be heavy burdens on the wage bill without having nearly as substantial an impact on the pitch. Whereas last season there were a few sources of goals, this campaign has seen the burden lie almost entirely with Craig Davies, and the defence, whilst never strong, has crumbled away completely.

So what of this was Keith Hill’s fault? Certainly the signings he made had to be viewed as a gamble in anyone’s book, and when managers gamble and lose, their heads are always going to be on the chopping block. In the same breath though, with next to no funds available, everything has to be a gamble; there are no sure-fire Championship hits that you can buy with the budget Barnsley offer. Vaz Te was a gamble last season and look what happened to him. However, the sheer volume of failures this time around, to which you can add Marlon Harewood and Ben Alnwick, have to be blamed on Hill.

The lack of goals from elsewhere is just an unfortunate acceptance that asking the likes of Tomasz Cywka and Chris Dagnall to fill in for Butterfield and Vaz Te is never going to work. This again comes back to the gambles the manager made and not being able to replace players like for like.

Hill’s biggest crime, undoubtedly though, is the defence which he has done little to remedy since joining the club but is consistently the team’s biggest problem. Starting the season and playing much of it to date with Scott Wiseman, who has only ever played down the flank, at centre-back is asking for trouble and whilst emergency loans have been shipped in to cover other positions, this gaping hole in the middle of defence has never been filled.

So it looks like Hill has plenty to answer for, but what he did do was instil a brand of football in the team not seen at Oakwell for some time: possession football. In Hill’s last two games in charge, Barnsley enjoyed 56% and 67% possession in the two home defeats to Blackburn and Birmingham. Obviously this bore no fruit as the games were lost but it does show that there is something to work on.

The question is then, where do the club go from here? Do they find a manager to completely overhaul this system of play Hill developed over 18 months, or do they simply find someone who can do it better? As mentioned there is no money to spend and nearly every player at the club was brought in by Hill to fit his style of play so the first option looks unfeasible. The Barnsley board then must find someone to do it better.

Now who has a reputation of playing good passing football on a tight budget and keeping a small South Yorkshire club in the Championship? Sean O’Driscoll seems to fit the bill, and conveniently he has just become unemployed. His sacking from Nottingham Forest seemed harsh and premature and if Barnsley can snap him up before anyone else does then it will be great business for them.

The 55-year-old is currently the bookies favourite for the job and quite frankly, no other choice would make any sense at all. He has every credential that the Barnsley board could possibly be looking for, he won’t even cost that much. So if Barnsley want to be one of the very few clubs to hire a manager based on actual football tactics, O’Driscoll appears to be the man for them.

Written by Phil Haigh, We Are Going Up’s Barnsley blogger

Phil tweets at @philhaigh_

Expect the Unexpected from Barnsley’s Barmy Army

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

In no way am I saying that I expect 3-4 away wins with ‘keepers head-butting opponents, multiple penalties and full-backs playing in goal every week, but Barnsley’s mind-boggling match at Rochdale in the League Cup might just be a prelude to a crazy season.

Keith Hill’s transfer policy of bringing lower league players who will give 100% week-in-week-out saw Barnsley finish fourth bottom last time out, which is no bad result for the club. He seems to have ditched this ethos though and instead of gambling on players from smaller clubs has plumped for some bigger and more exotic names.

The marquee signing of the summer was Egyptian international Mido, who has washed up at Oakwell after a turbulent career around Europe and North Africa. Predictably though he has pulled a hamstring in pre-season and won’t be seen for a number of weeks yet.

A replacement was needed so in comes a man with a CV nearly as long as the Egyptian’s, Marlon Harewood, recently returned from a short spell in the second tier of Chinese football. Add to this Jacob Mellis who was sacked from Chelsea for letting off smoke grenades and Kelvin Etuhu who spent some of his time in prison last year for assault and you have a real motley crew of new signings.

Surely a goalkeeper given a first team opportunity after years warming the bench in the Premier League will at least show some professionalism. Sadly not, Ben Alnwick marks his debut by giving away a 90th minute penalty for head-butting an opponent and is duly shown the red card.

It is quite a task that Hill has set upon himself to mould this band of misfits and mentalists into a team capable of Championship survival and hopefully even a push further up the table and one that will be intriguing to see how it pans out.

If he can muster up the same kind of commitment and endeavour that saw the side survive last year then he could have quite a team on his hands, because all his signings undoubtedly have talent. If, however, some live up to their less than savoury reputations then it could be a disastrous season at Oakwell especially given the lack of reinforcement in defence.

Once again the Tykes are the bookies favourites for the drop with prices as low as 5/4 for a bottom three finish but that will bother no one at the club as it has been a similar story ever since the return to the Championship in 2006. The only thing the club is bothered about is keeping its name on the Championship roster, and to do that, these big name players will have to prove their worth.

Written by Phil Haigh, We Are Going Up’s Barnsley blogger

Phil tweets at @philhaigh_

Hill’s job gets trickier by the week, but it’s a thankless task at Oakwell

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

After Barnsley owner Patrick Cryne had persuaded Keith Hill and David Flitcroft to abandon their successful project at Rochdale in the summer he set them just one task: keep the club in the Championship.

As we move into March, the Reds sit in 16th place and being 12 points behind sixth place Birmingham, it means Hill’s side are two points closer to the play-offs than they are to the bottom three. I don’t think that this achievement can be underestimated, although I think many Barnsley fans are threatening to do just that if the team continue to struggle as they have in the last few weeks.

What needs to be remembered is that Hill-Croft worked wonders in the first half of the campaign, quickly gelling together a team that cost very little into a hard working side that also offered plenty of quality in key areas. Although not solely responsible for these areas of quality, three players in particular were a huge part of it. Jacob Butterfield with most shots this season and equal most assists, Danny Drinkwater – equal most assists and Ricardo Vaz Te being the club’s top scorer; and where are they now?  The treatment room for the rest of the season, Leicester City and West Ham United respectively.

Add to this the loss of David Perkins to on-going injury worries and the problems get a little bit more severe.  I have grouped Perkins away from the initial trio because he hasn’t got the star player ability of them, but he is nonetheless vital to a successful Hill side thanks to his incredible industry.  With him and Butterfield out and Drinkwater gone then almost the entirety of the midfield is wiped out.

When a club is operating on such a tight budget, having arguably its three best players and its hardest working one taken out of contention is going to leave a significant flesh wound, one that Hill is doing his best to treat.

He has had to completely re-work his team mid-season which is an unenviable task at any level.  This was evidenced on Saturday against Nottingham Forest when the midfield quartet of Michael Tongue, Korey Smith, Paul Digby and Scott Golbourne had played just 22 games for the club between them.  The central pairing was then revamped for Tuesday’s clash with Middlesbrough, but the new duo of Stephen Dawson and Nathan Doyle have now started just 11 games between them this season.  Clearly it is proving incredibly difficult for Hill to find any consistency in selection.

The signings of Golbourne and Chris Dagnall have been criticised in some sectors, but Hill has stuck to his tried and trusted methods of finding the players with the right “DNA” for his system as he so often puts it.  They are bound to need some time to step up to the Championship level, and supporters will have to give them that.

The likes of Craig Davies and Scott Wiseman didn’t look great at the very start of the season, but they have taken their time and now are both pretty much nailed-on starters.  Hill can clearly spot a player and his success with his summer signings means he deserves a bit of trust with his January ones.

It seems that Hill-Croft have been a victim of their own mid-season success which got a lot of fans overly excited, but as a fan myself, I think we should thank them for their continued excellent work against the odds and support them in achieving the one goal Mr Cryne set them seven months ago.

Written by Phil Haigh, We Are Going Up’s Barnsley blogger

Phil tweets at @philhaigh_

The Oakwell merry-go-round

Friday, August 5th, 2011

It’s been a merry-go-round of activity at Oakwell over the close season.

The departure of manager Mark Robins, after a rumoured disagreement with the board regarding the club’s transfer policy and budget, preceded the arrival of Keith Hill from League One side Rochdale.

Hill wasted no time in shaping a team capable of taking on the Championship’s middle order, quickly bringing in defender Scott Wiseman & midfielder Matt Done from previous club Rochdale, fefender Jimmy McNulty from newly promoted Brighton & Hove Albion, along with the loan acquisition of combative utility player Miles Addison from Derby County.

This spate of new arrivals have been offset by the departure of club favourite Martin Devaney, who after six seasons at Oakwell has left to ply his trade at League One side Tranmere Rovers, along with Gary O’Connor, who having been largely instrumental for the side towards the end of last season, returned to Hibernian after his contract was terminated by mutual consent.

So, onto the pre-season friendlies. A flying start it wasn’t, with the proposed friendly with Hibernian called off due to a torrential downpour at Easter Road, and a visit from Dutch side Feyenoord cancelled due to crowd concerns, it was left for games against Hartlepool, Scunthorpe and Sheffield Wednesday.

15 goals in 3 games. That’s a typo surely? 15 goals in 3 games, 2 of which coming against local rivals Sheffield Wednesday, with 3-0 and 5-0 victories against Hartlepool and Scunthorpe respectively. Has Keith Hill finally assembled a squad from meagre resources capable of pushing up the table this year? I for one am looking forward to the results.

And so onto recent developments, with the arrival of Ricardo Vaz Te on a one year contract, a player who by Keith Hill’s own admission can “light up the league on his day” and the announcement that the club’s longest serving player Bobby Hassell has been appointed captain.

The fans will now have a few reasons to be cautiously optimistic going forward into the coming season. If we can build on our promising mid-season form from last season, which saw the team lying a few points away from the coveted play-off places, then there will be no reason we can’t be up there again pushing the other teams all the way.

Is this the season to finally break free of mid-table mediocrity? Let’s hope so.

Written by Daniel Dobson, We Are Going Up’s Barnsley Blogger

Daniel tweets at @Dzzl