Barnsley still doing Barnsley things after Murphy/Ismael departures – but what’s the plan here?
Barnsley have endured a summer unlike most in the Championship, coming off the back of their highest league finish since the turn of the Millennium.
Last season was a whirlwind one for the Tykes. A managerial change followed by an unprecedented surge up the Championship table and into 5th-place come the conclusion. Barnsley were bidding for an unlikely return to the Premier League – 23 years after they dropped out of it – but would come undone in the semi-finals to Swansea City.
Since, a lot has changed at Oakwell. Valerien Ismael has departed for West Bromwich Albion whilst Dane Murphy has taken on the CEO job at Nottingham Forest. Both would be replaced in good time though – Markus Schopp was named as the club’s new manager just five days after Ismael was appointed at The Hawthorns, whilst Khaled El-Ahmad was named as the club’s new CEO before Murphy had even left for Forest.
And despite such drastic changes at the helm of the club, Barnsley are still making the same kind of exciting, shrewd signings that they were during the Murphy era. They’ve so far brought in Josh Benson, Obbi Oulare and Devante Cole on permanent deals, with Alex Mowatt joining Ismael at West Brom and Conor Chaplin leaving for Ipswich Town.
Barnsley then are seemingly carrying on as before. The club has a certain philosophy about them which is plainly evident from the outside and no matter the manager or apparently the CEO, that isn’t changing. With Ismael coming in for Gerhard Struber, and the likes of Daniel Stendel before him, Barnsley are gaining a reputation for making these obscure but keen appointments and they’ve translated that into their player recruitment.
Daryl Dike’s arrival last season summed up the reach that Barnsley have, and just how attractive a destination they are for players wanting to experience the English game. Michal Helik and Dominik Frieser came in last summer and both for a combined fee of less than £1.5million, with the likes of Patrick Schmidt, Mads Juel Andersen, Marcel Ritzmaler, Michael Sollbauer, Mike Bahre and Samuel Sahin-Radlinger all arriving in the summer of 2019 on permanent deals.
The philosophy is clear at Oakwell. But what exactly is the long-term aim?
Since Paul Heckingbottom’s departure from Barnsley in 2018, the club has had five permanent managers in place – Jose Morais, Daniel Stendel, Struber, Ismael and Schopp, with Adam Murray taking caretaker charge of the club twice in that time.
There seems to be a sort ‘rinse and repeat’ method going on with managers at Barnsley. The likes of Struber and Ismael who both proved shrewd appointments, but left without a second thought when the opportunities arose and were both replaced without much hassle. Whilst the club hasn’t been so likewise when it comes to player sales, having constant managerial changes brings with it an ever-looming air of uncertainty and it begs the question of whether, after one strong season in the Championship, would Schopp then become an in-demand name?
Achieving promotion to the Premier League is one thing but doing so sustainably is another. Barnsley are certainly going the right way about it by placing more emphasis on younger players, recruiting smartly and appointing fresher and more innovative managers. But in order to achieve a promotion that lasts, the club needs much more security in the long run. Schopp, El-Ahmad and the hierarchy at Oakwell have a fine club at their disposal, one with solid foundations in place and an optimistic fan base. The club continues to progress, but how many more summer overhauls like this can the Tykes endure before all the good work currently in place comes crashing down?