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The return of Danny Wilson – by Keith Lodge

Highly-respected journalist Keith Lodge has covered the fortunes of Barnsley Football Club for many, many years.

And he was the town’s main scribe during Danny Wilson’s first Oakwell managerial spell.

So perhaps he is better suited than many to comment on Danny’s return……

‘There’s only one Danny Wilson…’

That used to be the refrain reverberating around Oakwell in the heady days of the historic season which resulted in Barnsley Football Club’s  promotion to the top flight of English Football for the first time in the club’s long history.

We went ‘Walking in a Wilson Wonderland’  and ended up playing the big boys on a weekly basis.

And now he’s back.

I have to confess that I view his ‘second coming’ with mixed emotions.

Of course I’m delightedly looking forward to seeing that familiar figure restored to the dug-out. Of course the announcement of his appointment has provided a badly needed boost for the club and its supporters. Of course I hope that he can repeat some of that old-time magic.

But I have always held the belief that neither managers nor players should go back to their previous clubs – especially if they were stunningly successful the first time round. And Danny was more successful than anyone had ever been at Oakwell. So successful that his remarkable feat in bringing Premiership football to the town earned him the Manager of the Year accolade.

How ever can he top that? The answer is, he can’t.

There is a prime example within the club itself of the alleged folly of bringing back a successful ex-manager.

Allan Clarke was a leading figure in the transformation of the Oakwell fortunes when perceptive chairman Ernest Dennis first appointed the former England international as an untried manager in May, 1978.

That was the start of the club’s upward spiral which paved the way for the times under Wilson when it was ‘Just Like Watching Brazil’.

But, while Clark’s second spell at the club was not exactly disastrous, it was extremely disappointing, and, with the Reds occupying 17th place in the old Second Division he was sacked.

And yet…

‘The Special One’ is back at Chelsea; Nigel Pearson (Leicester City), Billy Davies (Nottingham Forest), Eddie Howe (Bournemouth),  Gary Johnson (Yeovil) and Darren Ferguson (Peterborough) are all currently doing well in their second stints at their respective clubs – not to mention a certain Keith Hill at Rochdale!

So who is to say that Danny Wilson will not once again flourish at Oakwell?

He is a strong character; he has an unshakable belief in his  ability to get the best out of players; he is determined; he is honest – and he has another 15 years experience under his belt since controversially leaving Oakwell for Sheffield Wednesday prior to the start of the Reds’ first season back in the Championship.

That switch to local rivals brought him abuse from some Reds’ fans, yet who would not wish to go for a big city club with a larger following – and for more money – especially after achieving what was thought to be the impossible with a so-called small-town team?

He should now be welcomed back with open arms.

However, the Oakwell Club is in a precarious situation. It is staring the possibility of relegation in the face for the third successive season. Two years ago only the deduction of 10 points for Portsmouth saved them from the drop, and last term only a fortuitous round of results on the final day came to their rescue, despite a heroic second half of the season revival.

Now they are rock bottom. It may be that not even someone who re-wrote the club’s history books can save them this time. But if they do go down it will not be Wilson’s fault. It took him time to build a Premiership side. He needs even more time now.

That is why the powers-that-be also need to be strong and determined. They should give him at least three years to turn things round and even if relegation becomes a reality at the end of this turbulent term, they should stick with him.

That goes for the fans as well. They and Danny share the same philosophy of bright, attacking, free-flowing football.

And, despite my initial reservations about his return, my previous personal experience of him tells me that there could not be a more capable or  more likeable a man to bring that back to Oakwell than Daniel Joseph Wilson.

 – Keith Lodge


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