Friday, 3 August 2012

Barnsley FC Season Preview

So it’s nearly upon us, the most highly anticipated time of the normal football fan’s calendar year – the start of the season, and to say Barnsley fans will be optimistic could be a bit of an understatement. The high profile signing of Mido along with other Championship standard players has instilled a confidence in the fans that is unfamiliar to some of the younger generation, and this has been reflected in the team’s performances in pre-season. However, that won’t stop the bookies having us down as favourites for relegation.

The current squad on paper looks a lot stronger than last year’s squad, which consisted of lower league players who were full of determination and strived to do well, as opposed to established names that resided in the squad just to pick up a wage. Manager Keith Hill has tried to find a balance of both dedication and reputation in players this summer, and his signings have demonstrated his ability to find the right players that really make a team work efficiently. Kelvin Etuhu is a fantastic example of a player who has had experience in the Championship yet has the commitment to do well and give 100% effort. Despite these exciting signings, Hill has been slandered by some fans for bringing in a host of so called ‘bad boys’ in Etuhu, Jacob Mellis and Mido.

Three players will be vying for the number one spot this season; Luke Steele, Ben Alnwick and Lukas Lidakevicius. All great keepers in their own comfort zones making it a tough call for Hill when deciding who to pick, especially if Ben Alnwick starts the season off well with Steele’s on-going injury keeping him on the sidelines. In my eyes, as soon as Steele is back he has to go into the starting line-up, and I think his player of the season award would agree with me. One of, if not the best shot stopper outside the Premier League and if he keeps up the performances of last season then he’ll soon be in contention for an England call up, which would be thoroughly deserved.

The flying Steele - Luke Steele was player of the year last season.

What is still lacking at the club is a natural leader, and Hill has stressed his desire to bring in a commanding central defender to play this role. The creative Jacob Butterfield and ever-present Stephen Foster have been some of the most recent captains, however they never quite had the vocal presence that, in my opinion, some of the players at the club now have like Stephen Dawson and Jim O’Brien.

The midfield area is looking very strong and the recent acquisition of Portuguese whiz kid Toni Silva has injected even more pace and skill into an already very technical midfield. Jacob Mellis will bring even more technicality to the squad and has the advantage of already knowing some of the players so will fit right in after his loan spell in early 2011. Jim O’Brien will be up there fighting for a place on the wing with Etuhu and Silva and he brings extreme passion to the team which is vital in any successful squad. The strength in depth in central midfield will prove a good attribute and Hill will know this after losing his three most influential central midfielders in January. The rest of the midfield is packed with a mix of both defensive and offensive players in David Perkins, Matt Done, Stephen Dawson, Paul Digby and Jordan Clark, who all have the potential to be Championship quality, if not more.

The final third of the field is where we really need to stock up on, with only one striker in the squad who will be able to cause any real threat to strong defences; Craig Davies. A fantastic debut season has been followed on with some confident pre-season performances; in particular Alfreton away, in which he looked sharper than ever, grabbing two very well taken goals. Aside from the Welshman, the forward department comprises of Chris Dagnall, Danny Rose, and of course the heavily talked about Mido, who has looked off the pace so far. With the right guidance from Keith Hill, all four strikers could flourish throughout the coming season.

Finally onto the messiah, or what most football fans would call a manager; Keith Hill is still a newbie in football management, having only been in the industry six years. His style of play graces the field beautifully at Oakwell and it’s not since the glory days of Danny Wilson have we seen this free flowing football. Could this season see the return of the old saying ‘It’s just like watching Brazil’? Only time will tell. All this said and done, I think a 15th place finish would be a magnificent achievement given the budget Hill’s had to work with. So I leave you all with four words that breathe optimism and enthusiasm... 


What a coup - Mido, holding up the Barnsley shirt.

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