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Barnsley Football Club’s Unexpected Rise to the Premier League?



Barnsley bringing the feel-good factor to The Championship

Barnsley have been this season’s surprise package as they challenge for promotion in The Championship. The Yorkshire club currently sit fifth in the second tier of English football and have every right to believe that they are in the fight for the promotion push to the holy grail of English football. 


The turn of the tide for Barnsley?

Twelve months ago, we saw what may just be remembered as one of the most dramatic last games of the season in English football. After Wigan Athletic, who were comfortably sat in midtable at the time, were dealt a major blow to their campaign, being given a 12 point deduction for the club’s financial turmoil. The penalty would give Barnsley a fighting chance of remaining in The Championship after being in the relegation zone for the majority of the season, in which on the final day of the season, they were able to achieve the great escape at the hands of Wigan Athletic. 

The final game of 2019-20 season was a straight out battle between Wigan and Barnsley to avoid the drop into League One.  For Wigan, they were to gain an impressive 1-1 draw against soon-to-be playoff winners Fulham. On the other hand, Barnsley would need to beat the eventual playoff finalists Brentford to avoid relegation. ‘The Bees’ went into this game knowing that a win would give them every fighting chance of securing automatic promotion to the Premier League, this was a game that was written in the stars for the London club against a relegation contender. The odds were stacked heavily in favour of Thomas Franks side but with a 91st minute winner from Clarke Oduor, it was Barnsley that would shock the footballing world and keep them in The Championship at the expense of Wigan Athletic. 

A year on from that dramatic final day that kept Barnsley in the division, it will come as a major surprise to see their name involved with the ‘big money’ clubs in the league as the lineup for this year’s Championship playoffs is confirmed.


How have Barnsley performed this season?

Last season’s drama will be one that many will never forget, but this season has only outdone their prior achievements.

The key change has been in managers at the helm of the club. Current ‘gaffer’ Valerien Ismael took charge of the club in October 2020. This managerial change has skyrocketed the club’s performances and everyone’s expectation of the club, having picked up 23 wins this season, Barnsley picked up just 12 wins in the 2019-2020 campaign. Due to their form on the pitch, ‘The Tykes’ have qualified for a place in this years playoffs where they will face Swansea in the Semi Final, having finished in 5th position in The Championship – a remarkable achievement given their finish to last season. A win for Barnsley in the Semi Final will set up a potential ‘date with destiny’ against either Bournemouth or Brentford.

The success of Barnsley is credit to their style of play, by suffocating and pressing their opposition. The club has built a model around a specific recruitment style based on signing underperforming players from around Europe and from lower leagues. The club have also focussed heavily around data and statistics to improve in the way they play game-by-game. A philosophy that goes into much greater details than what it sounds like on paper but it has been extremely effective. 


Off the field changes that have made the club stronger

The footballing world has embraced the idea of global affiliations. Man City being an example to one of the more noticeable models with their connection to New York FC, Melbourne FC and Girona FC. Another to note would be the RedBull affiliations of New York Red Bull, RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg. 

The benefits of this model have rubbed off on this Yorkshire club, since being bought by the Pacific Media Group in 2017, Barnsley have been added to the collection of clubs that includes Oostende, Esbjerg and Ligue 2 side Nancy. 

Barnsley have seen the successes of this similar model that has been used at Brentford. The club also supports this affiliation model, a club that also works on a much smaller budget than many other clubs in the league, the model has helped catapult the clubs expectations as they steadily climb that ranks in English football. 

The club has benefited exponentially from the changes that have been made both on and off the pitch. Now that the league campaign is over, the club face an exciting challenge in the playoffs that truly highlights the romance within our game. Despite the struggles of last season, 12 months late and the club is three games away from the most prized award in all of football, a seat with England’s most prestigious clubs. 


Do you think Barnsley can make it to the pinnacle of English football? With the playoffs right around the corner, be sure to let us know!


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Sam is an International Relations Graduate from the University of East Anglia. Since graduating, he has gone on to write for the likes of: Sporting Feret; The 72; and The Sporting Blog. His experience writing for Sporting Feret has provided the opportunity to join the media team at Vanarama National League side King's Lynn Town FC. In the role, he conducts player interviews, writes match previews/report,s and is heavily involved in the club's match programmes. To contact him, his email is: [email protected]


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