Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Second Half Syndrome

It's the same old story season after season for Barnsley. A new manager, new signings, and still no change. When Keith Hill took charge of Barnsley, people were expecting drastic changes for the forthcoming season, yet in some fans' eyes, it's proved to be another big expectation, and another big disappointment. In my opinion he's done a fantastic job. The budget he was limited to was that of a mid-table League One club and once again he's defied the odds by taking the Oakwell club to 18th in the table with them still a clear nine points above the dreaded relegation zone. Since the turn of the year, Barnsley have slipped down the table, winning only three of their games since the 4-1 demolition of Leeds United on the last day of 2011. Our season very much reflects most of our games - fantastic first half and a dire second half. Ipswich at home is a defining example of this. What I want to know though, is what causes this second half of the season slump?

The players

Could the players be the cause of the dip in form after the half-way point in the season? Several players come and go in each transfer window of every season for Barnsley and yet the outcome is always the same. A good run of form always comes about towards the end of the calendar year, and this creates a good buzz and atmosphere at the club. However, after the turn of the year when we're seemingly safe, the players appear to lack effort, look disinterested and just don't have the willingness to see out the season. The fans get restless and boo the team and this then puts a lot of pressure on the players to perform better to stop them from getting dragged into the relegation fodder, as is usually the case. As well as a lack of effort, the vast amount of changes that occur at Oakwell result in players never really getting the chance to bond with others and develop a good team spirit and high morale in the camp. Barnsley are often cited by many as a selling club and a stepping stone for players to get themselves in the shop window, and with key players leaving in January, this has once again seemed to be the case with Ricardo Vaz Te and Daniel Drinkwater moving on. The timing of when the players left didn't help the club, with Vaz Te leaving with only a few hours left of the transfer window.

The departure of Vaz Te (left) and Drinkwater haven't helped Barnsley's cause.

The manager

Keith Hill has surpassed the club's expectations of keeping them in the league in his first year at the helm, but the fans are becoming increasingly tired of his excuses for the poor run of form the team are currently on. Is he the reason we're doing so badly in this second half of the season? Fans moan that his ideas are draining and that he has no reply to the way teams play against us. They believe he is clutching at straws by experimenting with players in new positions, this was shown through playing Jay McEveley at centre back and Nathan Doyle at right back. Even the @Not_Keith_Hill account on Twitter suggested that he may play David Preece on the left wing as his next masterstroke. The majority of supporters are still, like me, 100% behind Hill and his backroom staff and believe he is the man to take us to the Premier League one day. The recent criticism he has come under though is undeserved. He says that the loss of our midfield has played a big part in the drop of form. Before Christmas, the team went on a four game winning streak with a midfield consisting of Jim O'Brien, David Perkins, Jacob Butterfield, Daniel Drinkwater and Ricardo Vaz Te, of whom the latter two have now left the club - the other three are currently injured and it looks highly unlikely that the Butterfield will sign a new contract extension, leaving Hill to ponder upon trying to rebuild a midfield with the same flair and tenacity.

Butterfield was the heart of the team.

The fans

Are the fans the main impact on Barnsley's slump into the second half of the season? The fans are the only factor of the club that stays constant throughout. Players come and go, managers come and go, but the fans stay. The player changes in the transfer window always mean that the squad will be weaker afterwards, as is the case with this season, yet fans still expect the team to be performing at the levels they were when they had their most influential players. It's inevitable that the team will take a dip in form going into the final stretch of the season without their key players carrying them on and it's unfortunate that the minority of fans fail to realise Hill is doing the best he can with what resources he has to work with. Although they may not know it, the booing that comes from certain sections of the Oakwell crowd will affect the players' confidence going into the next match. Direct criticism on Twitter is also another contributing factor towards knocking a player's confidence. This can then have a domino effect and pass on to the whole squad. In my opinion the small section of mindless fans that boo and moan are the main influence on our bad form. The sooner they become optimistic instead of pessimistic, the sooner I believe results will come. The positivity was gleaming around Oakwell in the home game vs Peterborough United and that spurred the team onto a vital victory. That hardwork and grit combined was further helped by the fans togetherness and ability to create a fantastic atmosphere.

Ironically, the Oakwell 'faithful' seem to lose faith.

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