Valérien Ismaël spoke with the assembled media at Oakwell today as the Reds prepare for Sky Bet Championship action this weekend.
Our Head Coach met with the press via Zoom ahead of Saturday night’s clash with Swansea City and tried his best to clear up a number of rumours that have been circulating recently.
But he began by updating everyone on the health of his squad, with good and bad news on the agenda.
The Reds are set to be without defenders Jordan Williams and Liam Kitching in the short-term, as Valérien explained this afternoon.
He told us: “We have bad news with injuries to Liam Kitching and Jordan Williams. It’s very frustrating, we feel desperate about Jordan especially because he’d just got back. But we don’t think it’s long-term. We hope just two weeks, but I’m afraid to say things because we’ve been close to having him back on more than one occasion before. He’s such a good guy, important to us.
“Liam came with this small groin injury, and we are protecting him.
“But Aapo Halme is back, so that is good news,” the boss continued.
“We have so many games that we can’t take risks with the players, so we must be careful.
“Our COVID tests this week showed more good news, we had no positive cases. It’s good for us because it shows we are all on the same page, all working to our rules in and out of the club.
"We have to respect the virus and follow our protocols.
“We have another round of testing tomorrow, but hopefully everyone will be negative and we then look forward to the game on Saturday night.”
Moving onto the incessant transfer speculation that comes each time the window is opened, Ismaël clarified his and the club’s position on the future of captain, Alex Mowatt.
The in-form 25-year-old has been attracting attention this term, naturally, and with only six months left on his Reds contract, his future remains undecided.
“Alex has played a great season.” The gaffer stated.
“We have offered him a very good contract, and we’ve rejected a bid for him recently. He is very important to me, to this team, and to our club. He is the face of Barnsley FC. So we hope we can get the right news. I think it would be a very important signal to have him extend his contract.
“Sometimes in some situations, it’s not always about money. Alex Mowatt is for me more important to us than any kind of fee. We don’t want him to go, and Alex does not want to leave, he told me that. That’s why we’re trying to get him to agree to an extension.
“We need him to sign his new contract. We are working hard behind-the-scenes with Dane Murphy to do all that we can to make this work for everyone.”
One local journalist during midweek reported supposed interest in youngster Callum Styles, with clubs suggested to be readying bids for the 20-year-old schemer.
But Valérien denied that, referring to the rumours as ‘noise’ as far as he’s concerned.
He did though concede that with good performances on the pitch, it is only normal that his players will have their admirers.
“There has only been noise about that (Callum Styles).” The coach declared.
“It is only normal that we have interest in our players. The likes of Callum, Cauley Woodrow, Mads Andersen, Michal Helik, Alex of course, they’re playing really well so we expect other clubs to like our players.
“It is normal and we see it as a reward for our results and form in recent months. But the players are better served by staying with us until the summer. We are having a very good season.”
This Saturday then sees the return fixture with the Swans.
Having beaten the Reds 2-0 before Christmas, and currently sitting in the second automatic promotion spot, the visit of Steve Cooper’s outfit will pose another stern test for Barnsley.
But Ismaël feels it will be a different game this time around and says they’ll be better equipped on Saturday.
“I think we have improved since this game in Swansea. It was a strange one because of the pitch which was awful to play on.
“Swansea played a different kind of football that day which was a surprise.
“It will be a tough game against a club who are going for the Premier League. But we now know more about them and we will be prepared, more ready on this occasion, however they decide to play.
“We’ll adapt if necessary.”