2010/11: Barnsley FC – Expectation and Reality
As Barnsley fans know, their club has spent more years in the second tier of English football than any other professional football club in this country. On the positive side therefore, it can be said that the Tykes have spend the majority of their football life in the top half of the English game, and by implication have been a steady and consistent team. The down side of that though, is the Reds time in the very top echelons of the game has only been one solitary season – the Premier League season of 1997-98.
However, these statistics don’t tell the full story. The history of the club has included moments of misfortune and of struggle. The Tykes early years in the Football League included periods of financial difficulty, which were overcome. Worse was to follow when the Reds were dealt a cruel blow in 1919-20, the first season after the First World War. A less than fair ballot (which saw the old First Division expand to 22 clubs), elected Arsenal, rather than Barnsley (who finished 3rd in the last season prior to the War) into the new set-up. The Tykes battled on and nearly made it to the top flight in 1921-22, but missed out on goal average. How different would the clubs history have been if the Reds had gained promotion in either of those seasons?
Have the years in the old Second Division and currently in the Championship dulled the fans expectations down the years? Do the fans themselves believe that the team are a top-flight side or do they accept that the second tier is where they belong? Could it be that the Directors and Chairman are satisfied with Barnsley continuing to survive in this division and that a decent Cup run or the occasional dalliance with a possible play-off play is enough?
The pure statistics of all those seasons playing in the second tier of the game don’t actually translate to stability in recent years. The financial troubles of the club including administration in 2002 were difficult years for the club – so should Tykes fans be grateful that they have a team at all to watch? Financial stability has not been the only hurdle in recent years, in terms of managers, since Danny Wilson left in 1998, the Tykes have had 13 different incumbents (including caretaker managers) in just 12 years – an unacceptable figure.
So where now for Barnsley? Unless results away from Oakwell drastically improve this sesaon, the team will be left to rely on their home form to accumulate enough points to keep them away from the relegation zone. The club is unlikely to be in a position in January to bring in any significant signings, so Mark Robins will have to manage the squad as it currently is, although there may be some loan signings. The reality is that come August 2011, Barnsley will once again be kicking off in the Championship.