Former Reds defender Adi Moses praised his old club for a wonderful campaign during which they racked up 23 wins and amassed 78 points en route to securing a play-off spot.
The promotion dream sadly ended at the semi-final stage, but there were plenty of positives to take from an incredible season that captured the hearts and imagination of every Barnsley fan.
“It was an unbelievable achievement what they did,” stated Moses. “From what they went through to where they got under Ismaël, I thought it was a fantastic achievement. Some of the records that they were breaking, the unbeaten runs and consecutive away wins – all those kind of things – takes some doing.
“For them to do that this year, everyone knew the story from staying up at Brentford to not having a great start this season and then the new manager coming in. I said to a few friends that I thought they’d do it this year – I thought it was written for them.
“When I saw some of the games, I thought there was nothing to be afraid of with these other sides. I watched Blackburn at home and we were all over them, Stoke at home and they didn’t have a shot. These were the big teams and we had absolutely nothing to fear.
“When you have that momentum, like we had, and you’ve got a manager behind them who demanded that and was a hard task master in terms of driving them forward and not letting standards slip. You could see he was aggressive on the touchline, but in a good way – you could see that everyone was pulling in the right direction.
“Ultimately, it’s been a great season and something that will provide the fans with a lot of optimism. There’s a good feeling around the place to look forward to next season and I think everyone will be really relishing going back to Oakwell and seeing how we fare next year.”
After 14 long months away from Oakwell, fans were eventually allowed back inside stadia for the play-off semi-finals – and what an atmosphere our home faithful made during the first leg.
Moses admits it hasn’t been the same without supporters and believes it is a shame they haven’t been able to properly experience the success Barnsley had this season as they have done in previous years.
“This last year has been an unbelievable year for everyone, not just in football but outside of football, with everything that gone on,” he continued. “For fans not to be allowed in to see all this, I felt a bit disappointed for them.
“They were going on this run and I likened it to when we did it; it was such an unbelievable, euphoric outpouring of emotion – all the fans on the pitch when we beat Bradford. To have missed out on that, it would have been a little bit different but it still would have been equally as good to do that.
“Obviously, there’s social media now – it was never around when I was playing but we had fans in the ground. They’ve not been in this year, but there’s the whole social media aspect where fans can interact like that.
“It’s been hard for fans. You know what it’s been like over the last few years – Barnsley have been a yoyo club – and, in the Championship, we’ve not done it for years where we’ve been winning every week.
“We were going into games and expecting to win, and it was similar to us. The period that I was involved, fans expected us to be in and around the play-offs at least every year because we got close, then obviously we did it. We got to the play-off final again under Bassett and people were expecting it.”
The Reds came in for a lot of criticism for their style of play from certain quarters this term, with many perceiving it to be little more than long ball.
However, regardless of opinions from those on the outside, we continued to ruffle feathers and were effective as a unit, picking off those who tried to play through us and combatting those who tried to match us up.
“A lot of teams have come unstuck against Barnsley this year because they have this philosophy of playing out from the back,” stated Moses.
“If you look at the games, it’s not rocket science and Barnsley were getting a lot of stick for the style of play, but if teams are going to take chances playing out from the back, then you would say to your team to get in their faces, press them high and, more times than not, you’re going to win the ball back and get at them.
“A prime example of that was Luton away – they tried to play out all the time and we just won the ball back and Dike was in, Woodrow was in. I’m all for playing football the right way but, ultimately for me, it’s all about winning games and about getting three points.
“Where do you want to be? Near the bottom playing lovely football or at the top where they say you’re not the most pretty on the eye but it’s efficient and winning games, which is where we were?”
Of course, it all stems from the philosophy implemented by Valérien Ismaël when he arrived in South Yorkshire. Under Gerhard Struber, we would be more pragmatic in our build-up and play out from the back, but all that would change radically under the Frenchman.
The press was much more intense than it had been with Struber at the helm and even Daniel Stendel before him, and there was now a no-nonsense approach to defending, which gave us a solid platform to build on.
“He’s obviously got a philosophy of high intensity, high press and helping the ball on,” discussed Moses. “It is a bit old school, really, but nothing that’s new.
“It’s similar to Eric Winstanley and how he used to get us to play – if your strikers weren’t closing down your defenders and you sat off, he’d be screaming at the likes of your Andy Liddell and players like that to close them down.
“You can’t give defenders time on the ball and Ismaël has taken that to the next level where he’s really got in teams faces, freshened it up after an hour – the three subs are on and in their face again.
“It’s not a difficult game, when you look at it like that. I think it can get over-complicated at times and I’ve watched so many games this season where the opposition managers really haven’t had a clue how to play against it and yet you know what’s coming.
“Wednesday did it well, to be fair to them, and Coventry away matched it – they were aggressive with their defenders and Matty James helped it in behind.
“He probably went back to basics because, at the time he took over, they were in a struggling position and thought this is how we get out of this mess to start with, then when he’s seen the league and seen how the style of play has got results, he’s kept with it and it’s been simple but quite amazing how many teams struggled against it.”
With the new season just a couple of months away, Moses believes that there’s plenty of reasons for Barnsley supporters to be positive.
While there might not necessarily be the success of this campaign – although he hasn’t ruled it out – he is confident that the Reds will not be embroiled in a relegation scrap and should set their sights high once more.
“I think there’ll be a real optimism about the place when we go into next season – and it’ll be nice and why I liken it to our team – there’ll be an expectation now from what we did last season that Barnsley aren’t just going to be hoping to stay up and finish fourth or fifth bottom,” asserted the 46-year-old.
“There’ll be an expectation to maybe be a bit realistic and try and get mid-table and try and develop the club into one of those kinds of clubs where you’re established in the Championship.
“If you are going to be mid-table, pushing towards the play-offs, that’s what I think a lot of fans would be looking to do. There’s a lot of ifs, buts and maybes, but you’ve got to trust the manager who made a good impression last year that he’ll make those decisions again and keep moving forward.
“You want to be at that next level where you’re not looking over your shoulder but moving forward to see how far we can get up the league and if we can be a serious play-off contender.
“Let’s be optimistic and try and build on where we were last season rather than trying to scrape staying up. I think there’s an expectation for us to look towards mid-table with a view to kicking on.”