Struggling at the foot of the Championship, Danny Wilson’s Barnsley might be favourites for relegation but three points on Saturday could take them out of the bottom three. Ian Wilkinson from On the Ponty End tells us what to expect from the home side…
What were your expectations for 2013-14?
Most fans expected our form from January 2013 to continue. We had retained many of the players who sparkled in our survival last term and felt that with the addition of a number of key loan signings, David Flitcroft and his charges would be ready to send us in to mid-table mediocrity. How naive we were.
Chaos ensued in the early games, with no apparent Plan B. And despite having earned the respect and gratitude of many Barnsley fans, ‘Flicker’ succumbed to the sack, perhaps a little bit later than one might have expected. Following the great escape, as an inexperienced manager he had simply run out of extra lives.
We know we’re favourites for the drop. Portions of the Oakwell faithful have already accepted this as our fate, however I still believe that the force of the black hole can be overcome. If Danny Wilson can guide the Reds to a few wins in the next month we might have the boosters back on fire to escape its grip.
What is the fans’ general opinion of Danny Wilson?
Without doubt, Danny Wilson is respected by the majority of supporters; despite his defection to the ‘Fowls’ and previous stint with the ‘Blunts’. He’s the kind of football manager who sees and says it as it is, unlike the approach taken by Flicker, who sounded as though he had swallowed the entire ‘Mind, Body and Spirit’ section at Waterstones.
In his own words, he knew he had to “hit the ground running” — there was no time to bed in any massive changes, nor make a full and proper assessment of his backroom staff. He hasn’t complained. You have to take your hat off to the fella for simply rolling up his sleeves and getting on with an almost impossible task.
Have there been many changes since last season?
In May 2013, former Manchester United director Maurice Watkins took the helm as chairman, which then led to Ben Mansford, a former football agent, being appointed as our chief executive.
It’s pretty evident that the club is starting to move forward commercially and, despite the results, the match day experience for home supporters is improving. Off the field, their football connections appear to have helped us capture a number of players.
The ‘Derry Pele’ Paddy McCourt arrived on a free from Celtic, Peter Ramage joined on loan from Crystal Palace with a wealth of Championship experience, plus highly rated Danish youngster Marcus Pederson committed himself to a season-long loan in South Yorkshire. Recent forays in to the loan market have unearthed the talented right-back Jack Hunt, Ryan McLaughlin of Liverpool, plus permanent deals for Emmanuel Frimpong of Arsenal and Liam Lawrence, amongst other new faces. The fact is, we seem to have gained some pieces for the wrong jigsaw!
What can we expect tactically?
Wilson will possibly opt to start out 4-4-2, with O’Grady and Proshwitz spearheading the attack. But you can’t bet against a revised formation of 4-5-1 being used after the Huddersfield debacle, to take a more defensive approach to managing the threat that Forest have in abundance throughout their midfield.
Kennedy, Cranie, Ramage and Hunt will no doubt try to protect Steele from a further humbling this Saturday, whilst the midfield is anyone’s guess. After their post-match fracas with travelling Reds supporters at the John Smith Stadium, Dawson and Shea won’t be popular choices for a start on the terraces. Which probably leaves O’Brien. Frimpong, Jennings and Mellis as the likely personnel in that area.
Who are the key players to watch out for?
On recent form O’Brien has carried the passion and has delivered the work rate that Barnsley fans would love to see replicated throughout the first XI. With a ridiculous ‘wiggle’ celebration to boot, Jimbo has had the opportunity to air his talent on quite a few occasions already this season and will do a great deal to assist the front two.
Proshwitz has impressed with his three goals in six games. Still quite an enigma, at his best he could be a handful for the Forest defence or stake his claim for a leading role in the reboot of The Invisible Man.
Dale Jennings has also been a revelation since the arrival of Danny Wilson. Now starting to hit full match fitness, you can see glimpses of why Bayern Munich swooped to sign the former Tranmere teenage star. He could just be finding form and confidence at the right time.
What’s going to happen on Saturday?
My gut feeling is that ordinarily we might have been christening this fixture as the ‘Jamie Paterson Experience’. Tom Kennedy et al have their work cut out, that’s for sure. If we can nullify his contribution and goal threat, we might only be half way there. But there is a silver lining from our perspective that with Andy Reid, Henri Lansbury, David Vaughan, Jack Hobbs, Kelvin Wilson and Chris Cohen all doubtful for the trip, and Billy Davies banned from the touchline, this fixture might not have happened at a better time.
Barnsley will have to get out the blocks fast and impose themselves quickly on a Forest side that might underestimate their determination. On our day we can match the best in this division and traditionally the occasion has galvanised supporters to create a great atmosphere.
Sporting my rose-tinted Ray-Ban spectacles, as I often do whilst writing, the Reds can triumph and claw their way out of the bottom three this Saturday. It will be a sweeter victory if they do.
And On The Ponty End is well worth a read.
Image: Jeff Pearson (CC-BY-SA-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons