Barnsley have found things tough going so far this season and arrive at Griffin Park only four points and two places above the relegation zone.
They are currently on a miserable run of five straight defeats in a winless sequence of six matches, which followed back-to-back wins at Burton (4-2) and at home to Birmingham (2-0) as October became November.
The Tykes have seen their promotion-winning squad of 2016 ripped apart with midfielder Conor Hourihane and right-back James Bree joining Aston Villa, striker Sam Winnall moving to Sheffield Wednesday, centre-half Marc Roberts signing for Birmingham, winger Marley Watkins leaving for Norwich and midfielder Josh Scowen joining QPR.
They have won five league games this season – the other three being against Nottingham Forest (2-1) and Sunderland (3-0) at Oakwell and in their first Championship trip to London, at Millwall (3-1).
They have also already reached Wembley this season……..although it was in the third round of the Carabao Cup against Spurs, who beat them 1-0.
Barnsley have played most of their football at this level since 1980, apart from seven years in the third tier and one season in the Premier League (1997/98).
They can also point to being FA Cup winners – lifting the trophy in 1912 after beating West Brom 1-0 in a replay at Bramall Lane following a goalless draw at Crystal Palace.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Paul Heckingbottom was appointed manager of his boyhood club in the summer of 2016, after a spell in caretaker charge following the sudden departure of Lee Johnson.
The former Barnsley player initially joined the coaching staff in charge of the Under-18s, before progressing to the Under-21s in 2012/13.
He moved on to become senior development manager and had already enjoyed a spell in temporary charge last year following the departure of Danny Wilson, before being asked to step up again when Johnson left.
In a long playing career, the former Manchester United youth team defender made more than 100 appearances for Darlington and numbered Bradford, Sheffield Wednesday and Norwich among his clubs – as well as the Tykes.
Barnsley proved to be party-poopers on their Griffin Park visit last October – as they spoiled celebrations of our 4,000th league game with a 2-0 win.
A goal in each half from Adam Armstrong and Sam Winnall stretched our winless run to four matches.
Florian Jozefzoon scored his first Bees goal in the return on Easter Monday, but it wasn’t enough to earn us all three points as we had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
FloJo equalised Marley Watkins’ opener just before half-time and we missed a chance to win it in the second half when Jota’s penalty was saved by Adam Davies.
BBC Radio Sheffield’s Barnsley reporter and commentator Adam Oxley assesses the Tykes’ season so far, discusses possible transfer business in and out in January and names the Bees players he will be watching out for on Saturday.
Q – What were the general expectations from Barnsley fans at the start of the season – a play-off/promotion push, a mid-table campaign or a relegation battle – and why?
A – Last season’s early flirtation with the top six and eventual 14th-placed finish, in the Reds’ first season back in the Championship, certainly raised everyone’s hopes for another good season, but in reality, the majority of fans will have expected a tough campaign towards the lower end of the table.
Barnsley simply don’t have the budget to compete with the majority of teams in the second tier and, having already built a competitive team at least once and lost most of his star players, fans knew it would be a tough ask for Paul Heckingbottom to do it again.
Q – How would you assess Barnsley’s season so far?
A – When you consider the size of the club’s budget and the inexperience of the squad at this level, 20th at this stage of the season is good going. What has caused some concern is the recent run losing five games on the spin and crucially only scoring once, from the spot, in that run.
A lack of options up front is really hampering the side, which has been the case since summer transfer target from Swansea Oliver McBurnie fell through right at the end of transfer deadline day.
Q – With 21 games gone now, how do you think the season will eventually pan out for Barnsley?
A – It’s really difficult to say where the Reds’ season goes from here. Paul Heckingbottom has worked miracles since taking over in early 2016 but his squad lacks depth and experience.
There are ongoing discussions behind the scenes about a takeover at Oakwell, and when or if that goes through, and how it impacts the Reds’ January transfer window, will be likely to determine the course of the campaign. For me, Heckingbottom, a Barnsley man and fan, will keep the Reds in the Championship, but it will be tough from here on in.
Q – What is the feeling about the chances of another raid on Barnsley’s squad by the vultures in the January transfer window?
A – The Reds have been a victim of their own success with most of the stars who sealed promotion in 2016, and who subsequently started last season so well, sold to bigger spenders in the Championship and Premier League. Andy Yiadom is one of those players who remains at Oakwell but he was close to a move to Huddersfield in August and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he moves on in January.
Q – What sort of squad strengthening do you expect the Tykes to do next month?
A – Barnsley’s main priority will be to strengthen up front. Tom Bradshaw needs support, and preferably experienced support, but with the Reds’ lack of spending power, and current league position, that will be difficult to achieve. Paul Heckingbottom is likely once again to be shopping in the loan market or the lower leagues and he will have an eye on anyone who can add extra quality or competition in all areas of the pitch.
Q – The club’s policy appears to be similar to Brentford’s – buy them cheap or develop your own players and sell them high. Is that fair comment and are the new players capable of maintaining or improving Barnsley’s status?
A – That’s a fair comment, and it’s a policy that has worked well for Barnsley over the last couple of years, but irrespective of how good a coach Paul Heckingbottom is, and he is, it’s always going to be a bit of a gamble when you’re loaning young players or buying from the lower leagues, then developing those players and moulding them into a team that can compete in the Championship.
The current squad could well compete but lacks experience at this level with more questions than answers. The Reds’ academy has borne lots of fruit over recent years, notably with Jon Stones, Mason Holgate and James Bree moving onwards and upwards, and while there is lots of potential in the current youth players at Oakwell, nobody else has yet broken into the first team.
Q – Which Barnsley players should we watch out for?
A – Brad Potts is an exciting talent in the Reds midfield. The summer signing from Blackpool, another young, hungry player from the lower leagues, has gradually been finding his feet at this level and started putting in some more consistent performances.
Young Leicester loanee Harvey Barnes has provided some of Barnsley’s most exciting moments of the season from out wide, scoring five already, while Adam Hammill, one of the Reds’ more experienced Championship players, always has the ability to create some magic, on his day.
Q – Which Bees players will Barnsley be wary of?
A – Ollie Watkins seems to have made an impressive start to life at Griffin Park since his summer move from Exeter, adding a real goal threat, and I’ve usually been impressed with John Egan at the back, who appears to have been a consistent performer for the Bees.
Q – Finally, are you able to give me a possible Barnsley starting line-up and formation too?
A – The Reds tend to go with a 4-5-1 formation and could start with Davies in goal; back four McCarthy, Pearson, Lindsay and Yiadom; Potts, Williams and Moncur in central midfield; with Hammill and Barnes supporting Bradshaw from wide.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD
For Barnsley fans coming to the game, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).
We are now back to the traditional four pubs around the ground, following the reopening of the Royal Oak.
The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.
The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.
There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.
There is a pub right by Brentford station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.
The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge with a beer deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel.
A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.
Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Rd (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.
Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.
This is relatively straight forward but can actually take longer than if you get the tube due to waiting times (overground trains come every 15 mins and the journey from Vauxhall or Waterloo to Brentford is 30 mins on the fast train – 51 mins on the slow train – so you could find it takes you over an hour including the journey from Kings Cross/Euston/Paddington).
Many fans choose the tube over the overground. It’s 35 minutes to Northfields station from Kings Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Brentford from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford pub crawl outlined above (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe, Griffin) of course. If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops).
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.
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