A tough trip to Barnsley

Our team's second half improvement at Fleetwood last Saturday offers some grounds for hope that we can get something from our trip to Oakwell this weekend, but it will be a tall order. After an indifferent start Barnsley have shown impressive recent form and are now in the play-off places.

Believe it or not but it is only just over two years ago (July 2020) that The Tykes scored an injury time winner at Brentford to consign us to relegation from The Championship. They had been bottom of the table and seven points from safety when play resumed after Covid but an inspired run of four wins and three draws in the final nine games saw them home under the guidance of Austrian coach Gerhard Struber.

Amazingly, they reached The Championship play-offs in the following season. Struber departed in October after an indifferent start to be replaced by Valerien Ismael who took them up to fifth place. They were beaten by Swansea in the play-off semi final and Ismael left for West Bromwich Albion. Last season, under three different managers, their form collapsed and they were bottom of the table, even managing to finish below Derby County.

This summer Michael Duff arrived as their eighth manager in three years and was quick to describe himself as "not fly-by-night". He has good reason to make this claim as, in a twenty year career comprising over 600 appearances, he only represented two clubs - Cheltenham and Burnley. He is believed to be the only player to have played in each of the top eight tiers of English football in ascending order. After retiring as a player he was manager of Cheltenham for four years and led them to fifteenth place in League One last season. His Barnsley team made a poor start this term. Despite home wins against Cheltenham and Bristol Rovers they lost at Plymouth and Derby and were turned over 0-3 at home by Wycombe. In the last month, however, they have been very impressive away from home with a 2-2 draw at Ipswich followed by wins at Sheffield Wednesday (2-0) and Cambridge (3-0). Nevertheless, they were disappointing in their solitary home game when Port Vale held them to 1-1.

Like ourselves Barnsley have had a brief recent liaison in the cryptocurrency world. In mid August they ended their relationship with HEX.com just seven days after announcing the deal. This followed an investigation into homophobic social media posts allegedly made following the announcement of their partnership.  Barnsley Supporters Trust had already expressed their misgivings about the sponsorship (https://bfcst.co.uk/bfcst-update-hex-sponsorship-deal/ ) on the grounds that cryptocurrency is an unregulated market. They (like CAST) recently supported a Football Supporters Association motion that:

"Calls upon football clubs that do have partnerships to with cryptocurrency partners to ensure that they undertake due diligence before entering into those arrangements and to meet with the Supporters’ Trusts and fans groups to discuss all marketing and promotional activity before it us undertaken to ensure high levels of consumer protection."

With Charlton's sponsorship deal with Generous Robots also recently coming to an ignominious end, we should be able to concentrate fully on the match on Saturday with no distractions from non-fungible tokens or decentralised autonomous organisations. The availability of Mandela Egbo and Steven Sessegnon is a great boost and another point on the road would be a creditable outcome before a run of home games in October.