A change to the format
First and foremost, thank you everyone for your support on the Barnsley journey so far! I’ve had some brilliant interaction with FM bloggers, followers, and Barnsley fans, who have all seemingly enjoyed the exploits of our journey to the top thus far! Now though, it’s time for something a bit different. A change in format is upon us. I’ve enjoyed writing month by month, but with work commitments, a tiny person to take care of, and all the other stuff that comes with being an adult, I’ve fallen behind and felt a serious lack of desire to write. I’m now in the midst of season 3 at Barnsley, whilst the blog remains quite a way behind. So, in order to catch up, and for my own happiness, today’s blog (and for the foreseeable future) will take on larger lengths of time…now let’s finish up this season.
Europe and what?
We’ve bloody qualified for Europe guys! It’s exciting, and terrifying in equal measures. I love the Europa League, but we’ve not even secured our status as a Premier League club yet. We were however a good few places higher than our relegation rivals, and on a good run of form! 10 points from our 10 remaining games would carry us over the magic 40 points mark. It was achievable and I believed!
We’d start the run away at Stamford Bridge, in a game I hadn’t identified as a winner. I was right to do so, as Chelsea ran rampant, beating us in a 3-1 loss to the Tykes. Hourihane would score our only goal, a freekick from just outside the box, but Pedro and Kante would be our undoing!
Another away game, this time to Everton, would however be one that I fancied our chances at! Everton had struggled this season, and found themselves fighting a relegation battle of their own. An even game was expected, but like so many others before them since the turn of the year, Everton underestimated us! It wouldn’t be until the second half however, the 59th minute, when Vincent Koziello opened the scoring after a lovely break from Brice Dja Djédjé. Sardar Azmoun would make it 2-0 8 minutes later (I am growing to love this kid!), with Matt Phillips making it 3-0, 11 minutes later. Everton were frustrated, and Idrissa Gueye saw red, quite literally. The aforementioned Brice Dja Djédjé would make it 4-0 a minute later (, before Seamus Coleman grabbed a conselation in the 90th. 4-1 at Goodison Park, not a bad day’s work.
A return to home against Stoke would see us draw 2-2, in a game where we fought tooth and nail, before an away Yorkshire Derby fixture against bottom of the league ,Huddersfield. The resulting 3-2 win for us didn’t reflect the dominant nature of the game. Sam Winnall with a brace and Brice Dja Djédjé with the third before we let Huddersfield score with their only 2 shots on target. It didn’t matter. We were a win off 40 points, and safety. Huddersfield on the other hand were relegated.
The dream lives…
The 3 points wouldn’t come against Manchester City at the Etihad though, where a resilient Barnsley lost 1 to nothing to a Kevin De Bruyne goal. But…Southampton at home would be a different matter. Despite dominating the game, Southampton’s Jesus Vallejo would give us a lead with an own goal in the 40th minute. We simply had to hold on…It would get better though, with the controversial and heroic James McClean grabbing our second in the 68th. A 2-0 win on the day, and 40 points. And then the notification…we’d done it…we were safe. Barnsley would be a Premier League team next season!
Having reached our goal, I immediately begun my next coaching badge, the Continental Pro license, whilst 4 games remained. A 1-1 draw against mid tabled Sunderland, and a 1-0 loss to Spurs away made me fear that perhaps the boys had switched off now safety was confirmed, but a rousing 4-1 win over Watford in our last home game was enough to reassure me. Our final game of the season would see us lose heavily to Liverpool at Anfield, 3-0 to the reds, who would go on to finish in 11th, but win the FA Cup and Champions League…so, understandable that we lost I guess.
We finished the season in 13th place on 44 points, a new record high, with a Cup to our name, and European football for the first time, ever, next season. I think it’s fair to say, no one expected that in December, when we’d not won a game in a month and a half.
Europe was calling, and so was Crystal Palace and West Brom, who having been relegated, sacked Big Sam and Tony Pulis respectively, and offered me the job. It was a polite decline from me…no way was I leaving Barnsley during their maiden voyage on the continent. One final thing of note should be that the aforementioned Palace and West Brom were two sides competing in the Europa League this last season, having overachieved themselves the season previous…their failure to combine Thursday night and weekend fixtures had seen their downfall, and without a serious investment, we could well face the same fate…