Ahead of our 2019/20 Sky Bet Championship season opener against Fulham on Saturday, Dale Tonge insists Barnsley are relishing the prospect of facing one of the promotion favourites.
Following their relegation from the top flight last term, the Cottagers have retained a wealth of quality and even added to their ranks as they aim to secure an immediate return to the Premier League.
However, the Reds’ First Team Coach believes it is a challenge that his players are looking forward to as they look to test themselves against high calibre opposition.
“Frightening or exciting?” debated Tonge when asked whether he was concerned by the prospect of facing Scott Parker’s side. “I think it’s a great opportunity for our players to show what level they’re at.
“They’re an ex-Premier League team and they’ve got some fantastic players with a lot of individual quality but, at the same time, we feel that we’ve got enough in our locker to hurt them, and it’s just a case of us implementing our game on Saturday.
“We think we’re good enough to perform at this level and there’s no bigger test than the first game of the season with [Aleksandar] Mitrović, [Ivan] Cavaleiro, [Aboubakar] Kamara and [Anthony] Knockaert – you can reel them all off the tongue, but I think it’s really exciting for our players and this club to have Fulham coming.”
Aside from long-term absentee Kenny Dougall, Barnsley can virtually report a clean bill of health for this weekend’s encounter.
Jacob Brown is still unavailable after he picked up an injury during pre-season training in Nice, and Tonge provided an update on the young forward.
“Everyone is coming through training and getting a lot more minutes in their legs in terms of training time, so at the moment the squad is looking good,” continued the Reds’ First Team Coach.
“With Jacob, post-injury we estimated eight weeks and I think we’re half way through that now, so we’re probably looking at another month. But he’s a bit of a different animal; he tends to come back quicker than most, so we’re trying to put the reins on him a little bit.
“He wants to get back, which is understandable but, with the nature of the injury and having previous, it’s a case of managing as best we can but he’s looking really good.”
With the Reds completing no less than 10 new signings in the summer transfer window, there has been plenty of transition on the training ground at Oakwell.
And while some believe that so many changes could be advantageous to the opposition in the opening stages of the campaign, Tonge feels Barnsley could throw up a few surprises.
“I think our biggest advantage this year is that we are the unknown; if we’d have kept the team from last year there would have been a lot more that clubs could have identified with us in terms of the players and knowing them more,” asserted the 34-year-old.
“But, because this is a new group, I think it’s exciting that we’re the unknown and I think we’re going to surprise a few teams.”