With Sheffield United approaching fast our new manager has a list of suspensions and injuries that would make any coach apprehensive – but Paul Heckingbottom has found himself with a threadbare squad before. When you work in an environment like Barnsley where your best players are routinely sold and not replaced, it changes your approach from – “Why don’t I have these players?” to “I need to work with what I’ve got”
Paul Heckingbottom and his backroom staff will undoubtedly review the full set of players available to him, and that may turn up a few surprises.. so what will he do in the coming weeks?
Review the Exiles
Needs must.. We are light in midfield, and at the back, surely theres little sense in turning to inexperienced players when we need to put a run together (at least not in large numbers) so where recalls are possible Heckingbottom may decide to review who we have out on loan – but of course that will be subject to right to recall. Notwithstanding it may well be that these players end up playing a bigger part next season..
Luke Murphy, has now played virtually two full seasons at Burton and is a big part of their ability to survive in the Championship. Burton fans already see him as one of their better players – and would he now fit into a model where more grit is required, having fought in a side where survival was key – and professionalism. It’s been a spectacular fall from grace for our once star buy…
Marcus Antonsson, simply viewing his stats this season (albeit in a lower division) shows we let a decent centre forward go to Blackburn – and weve left ourselves with players unproven at this level and in this country. Much like Murphy has he now got into the groove of regular team football and rediscovered his scoring boots – for me reconsidering his viability is key. Youd put money on Antonsson to score in the championship now.
Lewie Coyle, virtually ever present for Fleetwood, Leeds’ failure to recall him seemed nonsensical when Ayling was declared out for the season, the argument that the club would rather he played regularly was turned on its head with Berardi’s sending off against Cardiff. He should have been recalled, and if that moment has passed he should surely be in the first team squad next season. One has to question whose decision this was, whoever it was needs to hang their head in shame.
Mateusz Klich – This does seem an unlikely one at this stage, but Klich did it in the Eredivisie and in Poland – on the face of it he too doesn’t seem like a typical Heckingbottom player – but that’s just stereotyping, Barnsley do play an attractive brand of football, and that may well suit a player like Klich more?
Take notice of the `forgotten’ players
In the absence of a reserve team (as per an earlier article) if you’re not playing and not in the U23s there seems little chance of reprieve, but there are players who simply don’t seem to get their shot – and its here that we may see changes emanating from Heckingbottom taking charge..
Stuart Dallas – A Player who has suffered now for two seasons due to his commitment to the Northern Irish cause, exhausted after last 2016’s euros, then 2017’s failure to qualify saw him injured, but that’s what you’d expect from a player like Dallas, wholehearted, hardworking and with bags of talent. It’s a mystery to me why he seems constantly overlooked in favour of Alioski. He’s the type of player we need on the pitch, the fact he put a shift in at Right back says it all – he would run through a wall for Leeds – and Heckingbottom will surely have noted this..
Matthew Pennington – His appearances have become a necessity now, but Pennington for me should be one of the first names on the team sheet, composed, a good passer of the ball and with plenty of pace – he was bred to play at a higher level, and hopefully he will get that opportunity to cement his place in the back four that he seemed to never get under Christiansen. Unlucky with injuries, hopefully that can be put behind him..
Vurnon Anita – Constantly played out of position at left back Anita turned from one of the players we seemed glad to capture in the summer to an also-ran. Why he isn’t deployed to protect the back four I don’t know. With plenty of championship experience perhaps the time is here for Anita to play where he does best – in midfield, doing an unglamorous job – but with the results he delivered at Newcastle..
Tyler Denton – A rising star, sent out on loan to Port Vale he seemed capable of playing understudy to Charlie Taylor, but vanished on his return from loan. Why? We need cover for De Bock, and with Berardi banned, Ayling out – why wouldn’t he be worth a shot?
Pawel Cibicki – Signed as an attacking midfielder with a good goal scoring record Cibicki only got he chance when others became injured – he seems a player who has a lot to offer and if deployed in a more attacking role it would be interesting to see what he could offer.. Again left out for seemingly months by Christiansen post signature, many expected him to depart. It’s to his credit that he won his place on the bench. This is however player who can surely deliver more
And what of the U23’s?
With a track record for developing young players, let’s just say Heckingbottom has an embarrassment of riches now. He’ll be over the moon to work with young players like Phillips, Vieira, Denton, Peacock-Farrell. But we haven’t seen players like Shackleton, Clarke, Pearce progress as much as you’d expect them. There are of course also the likes of Oriol Rey, Sam Dalby, Oliver Sarkic who it seemed would never get their shot at the first team even when the specialist positions became depleted. I expect (possibly not straight away) for Heckingbottom to make his mark in this area and challenge Orta and Coberan to speed up the production line of talent.
Reporter | Matt Brown-Bolton