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Talking Sport: Hill fights the good fight amid Championship's financial fears

By Andrew Lodge

There is no doubt that the loss of both Jacob Butterfield (through injury) and loan star Danny Drinkwater (sold by Manchester United to Leicester City) certainly hampered Barnsley in their home defeat to Millwall last Saturday. Well that and an inability to cope with the physical presence of Lions forward Darius Henderson!

But Reds boss Keith Hill has moved quickly this week to plug the gaps left in the make-up of his midfield.

He has recruited two loan players, former Sheffield United ace Michael Tonge from Stoke, until the end of the season, and 20-year-old rising star Korey Smith from Norwich for a month.

Now it would not surprise me in the slightest if the Canaries agree to Smith staying on, like Tonge, until the end of the campaign, if he is getting regular games in the Barnsley side. And if Hill is impressed with him of course!

The Barnsley manager has it very, very tough when it comes to competing with other Championship clubs for players.

Look at current league leaders West Ham. This week they have offered £7m for Glasgow Rangers striker Nikica Jelavic. SEVEN MILLION!

It looks as if it might well be rejected, which, considering the financial plight of the Glasgow club seems rather ridiculous, but it is still a staggering sum to be offered by a Championship outfit, albeit one who only came down from the Premier League last term and enjoy the benefits of the top flight’s parachute payments.

Can the Hammers, who reportedly pay Kevin Nolan something close to £50,000 per week in wages, truly afford to splash out that sort of cash? Only they will know, but there is no getting away from the fact that sort of transfer activity blows small clubs like Barnsley right out of the water.

The Reds and Hill would have loved to have kept Drinkwater at Oakwell until the end of the season. They would have loved signing him permanently I’m sure. But unfortunately the numbers could not stack up. They were priced out. After Drinkwater starred in the 2-1 win at the King Power Stadium, Leicester came galloping in with a £1m offer and the deal was done.

At the beginning of this season Barnsley saw their star centre-back Jason Shackell jump ship. On Tuesday night he will return to Oakwell with Derby County. He’s sure to get ‘the treatment’ from the Barnsley faithful but deep down we all would admit to ourselves we would still love him at the club. He’s a good player, but a good player we simply could not afford or persuade to stay.

As Hill himself says, ‘it’s just a fact of footballing life’. He admitted that he had to successfully compete financially with a League Two club in order to sign Chris Dagnall from Scunthorpe.

The majority of Barnsley supporters realise and accept that. And they also acknowledge just what a terrific job Hill and his assistant David Flitcroft have done to get the Reds so far away from the Championship’s bottom three places as we head into February.

On a shoestring budget, it is a notable achievement, let me tell you.

As followers of the Oakwell Club, we all have the right to have an opinion. We may not agree with team selection on any given matchday, we may be disappointed with the performance. We may also be thrilled at what we witness, as we were by Barnsley’s displays, home and away, against Leeds United this season.

And that memorable win at Leicester just under a fortnight ago.

But surely we must all admit that the Reds are up against it when competing in the Championship.

So while we are doing just that – competing – let’s revel in it. Hill may demand otherwise, but even if Barnsley win one, lose one, from now until the end of the season, I won’t be too disheartened by that. We are still doing better that what most pundits predicted for us.

Hill has pulled some rabbits out of the hat. David Perkins, signed on a free from Colchester, has been nothing short of a revelation. I’ve been impressed with Jimmy McNulty. Craig Davies has chipped in with some important goals.

No-one wanted to touch the talented Portuguese Ricardo Vaz Te at the start of this season. He was a free agent wondering if his time in English football was up.

Yet Hill and Flitcroft brought him to Barnsley – and after a steady if unspectacular start Vaz Te has flourished, and become the club’s current leading scorer, attracting a lot of interest from other Championship sides along the way.

He only signed a one-year deal so he too might well be off at the end of the campaign.

But hopefully the truly important people will still be there, messrs Hill and Flitcroft, and you, the supporters!

Let’s keep on bucking the odds, and fighting the good fight!

Donny and Pompey problems highlight football’s financial fear

Over the last few seasons Barnsley have been bankrolled by benefactor Patrick Cryne. His money alone has kept the club afloat.

What would happen to the club if he was no longer there? I don’t think there would be many people queing up to throw money at a small Championship club in South Yorkshire.

It is a major concern – and something I know Barnsley supporters regularly talk about.

And the financial fear in football has been highlighted again this week by the news emanating from Portsmouth and Barnsley’s local rivals Doncaster Rovers.

Pompey’s parent company, Convers Sport Iniatives (CSI) entered administration in November, forcing the Championship club to search for new owners.

And just last Friday administrator Andrew Andronikou revealed that the south coast club have missed two tax payments of £800,000 to HM Revenue and Customs.

As a result the club were issued with a winding-up petition by HMRC and will appear at the Royal Courts of Justice on Feberuary 20.

There is now real urgency to try and find a buyer before then.

Now a lot of football fans will say they have no sympathy for the club itself. They will recall Pompey splashing out astronomical wages of £40,000 per week not so many seasons ago. Simply irresponsible and unsustainable.

But supporters will feel for their fellow fans at Pompey. They are a loyal bunch and it was not their fault that the club overspent, and had too many ‘controversial’ owners.

Meanwhile, just down the road from Barnsley there appears to be cracks in the Doncaster dream.

Rovers, second-from-bottom of the Championship and five points adrift of safety, have been rocked by the news that four of the club’s board have resigned.

Multi-millionaire pair Dick Watson and Terry Bramall, who made their fortune from the Keepmoat property company, have stepped down, along with Dick Watson’s children Andrew Watson and Sarah Kell.

Their resignations came as a shock to chairman John Ryan, who admitted: “They were not at all expected. I came back from holiday in Barbados and had four resignations in the space of 48 hours. I’m feeling a bit battered and bruised by it all.”

Ryan, Watson and Bramall all funded the club on an equal basis.

Ryan added: “We worked on the lines that if I put a pound in, then Dick and Terry would put a pound in too.

“It’s too early to say what happens at the club now. I have to assess it.

“The fans need to rally round, and those people who have negative need to shut up. There is a minority who nwouldn’t be happy even if we won the Champions League. There’s no pleasing some people at all.”

That ‘minority’ Ryan entioned is quite possibly mirrored at every other footbal club in the country. Realism seems to go out of the window!

While Bramall’s resignation was a personal choice, Watson has been advised to stand down on medical grounds.

Ryan also revealed that Rovers have a shortfall in their budget of £5m. He said that between him and Watson they had pumped in £3.2m to try and herlp the club clamber away from the relegation places.

One of the most controversial things introduced by the club was to bring in football agent Willie McKay and only recruit players he suggested, mostly the loan signings of foreign footballers on his books.

Knowing Ryan’s character, he will never give up fighting, but Donny look in a pickle. So too Pompey.

Like Portsmouth, Barnsley have been in administration themselves. They were ‘saved’ at the 11th hour by local man Peter Doyle, before he eventually sold, via a brief interlude with Sean Lewis, to Patrick Cryne.

Cryne, a shy man not used to the footballing limelight, has earned the gratitude of many Barnsley people for his financial support of the Reds.

Over the last 12 months the Oakwell outfit have really cut their cloth, to try and stand on their own two feet ahead of the introduction of the Financial Fair Play rules.

But it is a constant struggle – and the worries remain among Barnsley’s own fanbase.

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