Date:Friday December 13 2013
Barnsley are yet again on the search for a new manager. The fact that it will be the 8th appointment in ten years got me taking a trip down memory lane and analysing all of the managers we have had and how the club has been run over recent years.
We had some bad managers during our fall in to the third tier and whilst in the third tier itself. We also went in to administration and there were some horrible times at Barnsley both on and off the pitch.
I chose to put that to one side and focus on what we have done since we returned to the second tier.
I examined every aspect of the club from the way it has been run, the managers we have had and the players we have had and came to the conclusion that we deserve to be relegated.
I`m not saying I want us to go down or like some fools think that it would be better if we did go down. I`m not saying that at all. Barnsley are my team and I am desperate for them to stay in the Championship but ultimately we do deserve to be playing League One football.
Forget the fact that we only just stay up every season and are punching above our weight financially. I just think that when you look back at a lot of decisions that have been made regarding managers, players and contracts etc it was inevitable that we would be relegated at some point and therefore we deserve to go down.
There is counter arguments that with limited funds and resources that we deserve to stay up because we have had to do it the hard way. I can see that point of view as well. But as a fan who usually gets behind the team no matter what and more often than not sees the positives, I am now about to embark on a negative view of the last few seasons.
First and foremost I don`t want anyone to see this as a dig at the owner Patrick Cryne who has put his money in to the club and we as Barnsley fans appreciate everything that he has done.
I will go back to our promotion via the play-offs in a penalty shoot-out against Swansea in Cardiff. It doesn`t seem that long ago but we have been in a similar position every year since and Swansea are now an established Premier League team. I am not comparing the two teams but merely pointing out how much can change in a few years.
Andy Ritchie was the man at the helm when we gained promotion. Our season back in the Championship began with entertaining attacking football but unfortunately we couldn`t keep the ball out at the other end.
We struggled for wins and Ritchie paid the price very early in the season. Ritchie wanted to give the chance to the players who got us up and it didn`t work. Would Ritchie have taken us down if he had not changed his outlook? Almost certainly. However I do think he should have been given longer on the provision that he brought new players to the club who were proven at this level. After all he had got us there in the first place. The brand of football was good to watch and with a few tweaks in personnel we could have progressed to being a mid-table mainstay.
His replacement as manager was Simon Davey and it is with Davey where most of the blame should lie for our current predicament. Not completely with Davey as he was given the job but the knock on effects of his poor signings is what is costing the club today.
It was an appointment that should have never been made. It was the cheap option. It came at a strange time as well. A 3 - 0 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday where left back Robbie Williams had played in the centre of midfield and hours later Davey was announced as the permanent boss.
Granted he did keep us up and a run to the FA cup semi-finals papered over the many cracks that Davey had created.
We had more money back then and Davey was backed quite heavily, especially for Barnsley and he wasted almost every penny.
Over £2 million was blown on four strikers alone and we recouped very little of that back when they left.
Ok the Iain Hume incident was a special case and he never returned the same but we vastly overpaid for him in the first place.
Mostto was a disaster, Odejayi was never good enough for this level and for one reason or another he refused to play Kim Christensen despite signing him.
Davey was backed in the transfer market like no other Barnsley manager at second tier level and blew millions of the clubs money on dead wood.
His record afterwards at Darlington and Hereford shows just how bad an appointment he was.
Any other manager with the funds available to them that Davey had would have had Barnsley as a top half Championship team at that time.
His wastefulness and lack of an eye for a player ultimately cost him his job with the club at the foot of the table. Davey felt after what he had achieved (a fluke of a FA cup run) that he deserved time to turn it round. Unfortunately for him he would have never turned it round. And unlike recent managers who can point at the lack of financial backing as contributing factors to their downfall, Davey cannot.
That is why I place a lot of the blame on our current plight on the shoulders of Simon Davey. Many would argue that the club gave him the money to spend so the blame lies there. That is also true and I am not saying everything wrong at Barnsley is the fault of Davey. The club should have never appointed him but when they did they wanted to back their man and were in a position to do so, unlike what they are today. The money was there and Davey was going to spend it, but has anyone anywhere at any football club spent so poorly? He has certainly got to be up there if ever such a list was to be compiled.
Mark Robins was the next man in the hot seat. By looking at the statistics of league position and where we were when Robins took over then you would view his tenure as a success.
However Robins also received substantial financial backing. He didn`t have the same amount of money that Davey had to buy players but he had a lot to spend on the wages of Premier League players.
I felt under Robins that we should have done better than we did. We had a squad capable of a top half finish. Robins however was very negative and always but safety first. I am convinced if he had been more expansive then the club would certainly have finished in a higher position.
Robins undoubtedly got results which are what matters but he did that in a style of football that was dire to watch. I would take that now of course I would but he had talented players at his disposal and could have achieved more.
Many fans feel that had Robins stayed at the club then we wouldn`t be in the position we are in now. I beg to differ. There is a reason he left and that is because he thought he would take the club down.
When Barnsley revealed that the budget would be a lot tighter going forward then Robins quickly jumped ship. He had no confidence in his own ability as a manager to be able to keep Barnsley in the Championship under tight constraints. The next two managers managed it (just) so why didn`t Robins see the job through. The answer is simply because he knew his limitations.
His record at other clubs suggests that he is a good manager and I`m not saying he is a bad one, just one that knew his limitations.
He is doing a good job at Huddersfield now and although they don`t have the biggest budget in the league they do have one comparable to what he had at Barnsley.
He did a good job at Coventry but he took over with them towards the bottom of League One. They had only just been relegated and had a squad which still contained a lot of Championship quality players. The only way he could go was up.
He did a good job at Rotherham especially with the point`s deduction for being in administration. In the early days it was a bit difficult for him but once they came through that they were the money men of League Two and had players like Alfie playing for them.
He was out of management for so long after leaving us because he was waiting for the right opportunity and he will only take jobs where he knows he has the money to succeed.
On paper he looks like a good manager but you have to delve in to each situation and examine the reasons for success and failure.
Any fan who tells me that the problems at the club stem from Robins leaving are wrong. Had Robins have stayed in charge then I believe we would already be in League One.
I don`t think you can blame Robins for our current predicament like you can with Davey but why Barnsley fans hold him in such high regard with the way he left is beyond me.
So Barnsley had decided that the time had come to cut their cloth accordingly. No more money for big wages or fees to pay for players and to top it all they needed a new manager.
The new manager would have an uphill task to keep the club in the Championship with the new restrictions in place at the club and would find it difficult to attract Championship quality players to the club with the wages on offer.
Keith Hill was appointed and tasked with the job of keeping Barnsley in the Championship on a shoe string budget.
Hill came after leading Rochdale to a ninth place finish in League One having gained promotion the season before.
The clubs new structure meant that they needed a change of strategy too. They decided that the best way to go about things was to appoint an up and coming lower league manager.
They made this decision because the new manager would have to wheel and deal to bring players in and unearth gems from the lower leagues for cheap who could step up to the Championship.
Keith Hill fit the bill perfectly following his achievements at Rochdale and was also known for playing good football which the Barnsley fans had craved since the Danny Wilson days.
The first two home games under Hill were possibly the worst two displays that I have seen in my time watching Barnsley and that is saying something. Many fans feared that the clubs new approach had guaranteed relegation.
Hill knew the job wouldn`t be easy but stuck to his guns and it all came together. He created a midfield full of creativity, pace, bite, work rate and skill.
Davies up front was scoring goals. The five behind him of Perkins, Drinkwater, O`Brien, Butterfield and Vaz Te were up there with any in the league.
Barnsley reached the dizzy heights of eighth at one point and were playing the best football we had seen at Oakwell since Danny Wilson reigned.
At Christmas everything looked great. Every fan in town had forgot about the financial restrictions and were pleased that this lower league manager had created such a good team with no money and playing such great football. But most importantly of all, Barnsley were winning games and seemed far from the dangers of a relegation fight.
It wasn`t long before it all imploded. Three players were taken from that team and it ripped it apart. Leicester signed Drinkwater. Vaz Te was sold to West Ham and Butterfield was injured by dirty Leeds.
They were the three best players and it had such a negative impact on the team, on performances, on results and most importantly on the manager.
Following a great start to life as Barnsley boss, 2012 was one to forget for Keith Hill. I doubt many if any managers have experienced such a poor run of results in one calendar year.
Barnsley ensured Championship survival courtesy of a ten point deduction to Portsmouth and it was time to rebuild and regroup for next season. A task made more difficult with star player Jacob Butterfield signing for Norwich.
Butterfield was probably worth quite a few million but as he was out of contract we didn`t get what he was worth. An all too familiar story as far as Barnsley are concerned.
The fact of the matter is that Butterfield`s contract should never have been allowed to get to this stage and the blame for this actually lies with Mark Robins.
Robins for some reason didn`t rate Butterfield and preferred to play as many work man like players as possible at the expense of players who could find another red shirt. Because of this Butterfield was allowed to go in to the last year of his contract and chose to keep his options open. He saw the money of the Premier League like all players do. I wonder if he realises that another season or two at Barnsley could have helped him actually play in the Premier League rather than just be in a Premier League squad.
Anyway back to Keith Hill. The season started quite promisingly and included a 5 - 0 away victory at Birmingham. Yet again though the promising signs that were there quickly diminished and the club found themselves at the bottom of the table and Hill was sacked.
The pressure had clearly got to Hill. He didn`t know his best team, he changed formation almost every game and even did the strangest of things like go away to Coventry and play eight defenders in the team.
The pressure on Hill was from the fans and fans want results. Hill didn`t sit back and take it though and repeatedly had a go at the Barnsley faithful. Hill was right with most of the things that he said but once you start having a go at the fans then you won`t last long unless you are producing the results.
At the end of his tenure, Hill was a visible wreck and this must have rubbed off on the players. It showed in the performances and their reluctance to try anything in the final third and far too many times go backwards with the ball.
This possession football worked early on for Hill but at that time he also had players who could do the damage in the final third such as Vaz Te and Butterfield.
I think the club were left with no option but to sack Hill. I do however think he will prove to be a good manager as he is already showing on his return to Rochdale. He again has them punching above their weight. He will do a great job again at Rochdale but I think he had the wrong personality or mentality to succeed at Barnsley.
I don`t really blame him for this as he didn`t expect the criticism he and some of the players received from the fans and he felt like he always had to defend things. He was certainly a man who wouldn`t take it lying down and would give it back. The fans ultimately get what they want in the end and no manager can compete with that.
As for Hill`s time at Barnsley well, was he ever in with a chance of doing any better than he did? Constantly having to build a new team due to his best players being sold and no money to spend. If the Barnsley fans had given him a chance then maybe he could have been a success.
How do I judge his time at Barnsley? For me the odds were always against him. He had no money, his best players were sold. He was given the task of signing players from the lower leagues to compete at this level and in fairness I think the vast majority of his signings have been a success. Many fans will disagree but with the money that was available to him he couldn`t have got many better.
He did what he was asked and overall I will judge him on his signings so I will say that his signings were a success considering what was asked of him.
He probably would have taken us down had he not been sacked but the fact is that he didn`t.
I also know that he initially turned down the job and the reasons why he was persuaded to take it in the end.
The board felt that he was the right man and assured him he would remain as manager if the club were to be relegated. We stayed up but ultimately he lost his job anyway but the situation had changed somewhat.
How much would I hold him responsible for our current problems? Well you could say that team is made up largely of his players so he has to take some responsibility.
I do however feel that he had nothing to work with and he couldn`t have done much more. Davey is still the man out of all of the managers who needs to take most of the blame but I`m yet to touch on how poorly the club has been run over this period in the Championship.
That brings us on David Flitcroft. Flicker thought that he would be following Hill out of the door but a results revival along with other managers rejecting the job saw him appointed on a permanent basis.
Flitcroft quickly realised what was needed and immediately played a more up tempo style. He changed to five at the back and galvanised the entire squad and the fans.
He achieved the great escape. Something I`m not sure any other manager could have achieved. He brought a togetherness and motivation to the group that had never been seen before and unlikely to be repeated again.
When you hear Flitcroft speak it is a like a breath of fresh air and rarely do you hear such honesty and enthusiasm from a football manager.
You can see why any player would want to pull a shirt on for this man and how much it means to him. He talks great sense but ultimately he couldn`t continue the great work of last season.
His signings, team selections and sometimes tactics probably cost him in the end. He`s a young manager and I will learn from his time at Barnsley. I`m sure he will develop tactically and once that catches up with his fantastic personality, he will go on to be a successful manager.
His summer signings were criticised by many but again who could he really attract to Barnsley? He probably brought in too many squad players but I really don`t know what people really expect.
I believe that we are destined for League One sometime in the near future and for that reason I would have liked to see Flicker kept on and given the chance to build and bring us back. Unfortunately it wasn`t to be.
What portion of the blame can be attributed to Flitcroft as to our current predicament? Despite him leading us to the foot of the table I am going to see none at all. We would be in League One already if not for him. He didn`t do bad to say last season`s board and this season`s board didn`t really want him. He did everything that he could and I personally will have nothing but fond memories of his time at Oakwell.
Now I would like to move on to the shambolic running of the club and this is the main reason why we are where are and why we deserve to go down.
As I said earlier I am not blaming Cryne as he has put his money in and has the right to put in as much or as little as he chooses. However some of the business decisions made have been horrendous. I think Cryne realised this himself which is why Mansford and Watkins were brought in this season but it is probably too little too late.
The poor decisions made by the club stems from fear of being relegated but they were looking at it in the wrong way entirely.
My main issue has been with players contracts. Fear of having high earners on the books if we were relegated meant that the club only gave one or two year deals. What a load of b****** this was.
Players who could have commanded substantial transfer fees have been allowed to leave for nothing or peanuts. We could have brought in millions on player sales. The difference between what we could have got and what we actually received is frightening.
I can see the need for caution at times but if we did go down and big earners were still at the club then someone would have certainly come in and bought them.
Not only have we lost money by doing this but we have been forced to let players go at times when we didn`t want to. An example of this is the sale of Vaz Te in January when we were looking top half certainties. We received peanuts compared to what he was worth and it also nearly cost us our Championship survival. For what we received for him we would have been better off letting him leave in the summer for free and really have a go for it. Also if we had have gone down then it would certainly have cost the club more than we banked.
The clubs philosophy with contracts was my main issue but the running has been poor in other aspects too. Giving Davey the job and giving him all that money. Pricing fans out of coming to Oakwell and a failure to respond to dwindling crowds. Overall a complete shambles.
One final issue I have is with us the fans. Football has become very fickle indeed but I must admit that we the Barnsley fans have got to be amongst the fickle in the country and often seem to want to do our best to make it harder for the lads on the pitch.
The atmosphere at Oakwell has been poor for a while now but that is not my issue.
How can fans of a team boo players for being read out as man of the match?
How can fans of a team target one player for no reason other than he has replaced a fans favourite? Booing his every touch was bad enough but to take it social media was ridiculous.
Whilst we are on that subject, any true fan or objective viewer can see that Scott Wiseman is worthy of the right back spot.
I too think that Bobby Hassell is a legend but his time has come, his legs have clearly gone and Wiseman is the better option.
Every player comes to that point and I don`t understand why fans can`t appreciate Hassell for the legend he has been at Barnsley but acknowledge that Wiseman is the best man for the job. Not only that but why can`t the fans can`t behind the lad and show him the same support that Bobby gets.
Wiseman seems like a decent bloke and he always gives 100 per cent so what is the problem? Someone please tell me.
I also speak to many Barnsley fans that I know who just stopped going to matches and have no intention of ever returning. I don`t know how fans can just abandon their team like that unless money is the issue, but I know with many of the ones I speak to that that isn`t the case.
In summary when I examine every aspect of the club I do come to the conclusion that we deserve to go down.
We have been poorly run for too long and gave all our money to the worst manager that has ever been appointed at Oakwell.
We the fans also need to take a long hard look at ourselves and analyse our so called support of the team.
How many of us will still be going when we are in League One? And this time next year will be wanting the head of another manager?
Date:Friday December 13 2013
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