Barnsley next permanent manager odds
Losing promising manager Lee Johnson to Bristol City back in February seemed like the nail in the coffin to a Barnsley side that were struggling to adapt to life in League One after suffering relegation from the second tier in the 2013/14 season.
Yet, with caretaker manager Paul Heckingbottom in charge, Barnsley climbed from 14th place to an eventual sixth place finish, winning 10 of their 17 remaining games under their new manager.
An impressive 4-1 victory over eventual champions Wigan on the final day of the season confirmed their place in the League One play-offs. Despite their late surge, Barnsley weren’t finished yet, as they surprised everybody by overcoming Walsall and Millwall to confirm their place in the 2016/17 Championship.
With the halfway point of the season now approaching, Barnsley find themselves in a mid-table position in the Championship, which is impressive, considering they were a mid-table League One side just a year ago.
Heckingbottom has transformed the club in the short time he has been there. Yet, his lack of experience is cause for concern. This is his only managerial tenure to date, which will worry the club’s hierarchy going forward, as they seek to reach the Premier League for the first time since the 1997/98 campaign. However, should the club choose to look elsewhere, who are they likely to turn to?
Sam Allardyce is the obvious choice. The former England national team manager has been linked with every available Championship job since he parted ways with England back in September, and it’s easy to see why.
Allardyce has bags of experience at this level and a brilliant record of taking clubs to the top flight, having enjoyed successful spells with Irish club Limerick FC, Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United, West Ham and Sunderland. Better yet, he is well known for his feats of avoiding relegation once in the Premier League, which would help to secure the club’s future at the highest level should they get there.
Another man who has garnered a lot of interest since the summer is former Tottenham Hotspur manager Tim Sherwood. While he doesn’t has the longest CV in management, he has valuable top flight experience that would undoubtedly help the club going forward. Having recently joined League One side Swindon Town as Director of Football, it will take some doing to convince Sherwood, but a return to first-team management could sway the Englishman.
Of course, experience isn’t everything in management - instability can wreak havoc at this level, too. The club have had no less than eight managers at the helm in the last five years. Mark Robins, Keith Hill, David Flitcroft, Micky Mellon, Danny Wilson, Mark Burton and Lee Johnson have all departed prior to Heckingbottom’s appointment. While he is unlikely to part ways with his current club with ease, AFC Wimbledon’s Neal Ardley would be a good choice to help the club to find their feet again after a turbulent few years.
Ardley has taken Wimbledon to the next level since taken over in 2012, guiding them to League One last season. Regardless of his lack of experience, the up-and-coming manager has done a fantastic job with his current club despite their limited budget, and would undoubtedly give Barnsley that push that transforms them from a mid-table Championship side into play-off contenders.