Opinion: 44-year-old should turn down opportunity to fill Barnsley vacancy

Barnsley are searching for their seventh permanent manager in just over four years following the departure of Poya Asbaghi before the 2021-22 Championship season had ended.

That run of bosses started with Jose Morais and continued with Daniel Stendel, Gerhard Struber, Valerien Ismael, Markus Schopp and then Asbaghi – some of them were more successful than others.

Asbaghi arrived in November to replace Schopp, who had failed to carry the momentum of the season prior that Ismael created, but with the Swede’s inexperience in English football and club management in general, it was always going to be a tough ask to keep the Tykes in the second tier.

Quiz: Can you name which club Barnsley sold these 23 players to from the last decade?

Despite results improving in the final few months of the season, it wasn’t enough to secure safety, and Asbaghi was disposed of as a result.

The search is now underway by Barnsley’s new-look board of directors for a new manager, and it appears that they’re going down the route of EFL experience this time around.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was the first name linked with a move from Burton Albion to the Tykes, but the Yorkshire club have seemingly honed in on Cheltenham Town boss Michael Duff.

The 44-year-old former Northern Ireland international has been in charge at Whaddon Road since September 2018, returning to the club that he started his professional playing career with in 1996, and there has been continued progression for the Robins since his arrival.

Having finished 16th in League Two in 2018-19, Cheltenham then finished fourth in the fourth tier in the following season, and then they put play-off heartache behind them to win the league in 2020-21.

Naturally, Cheltenham were one of the favourites for relegation from League One this past season, but perhaps against the odds they finished 15th in the league, well clear of the drop zone.

Even though the budget is always going to be limited at Cheltenham, why depart when you’ve got a good thing going on – especially to a divisional rival?

Barnsley’s relegation means that they will face off against the Robins twice next season, and there’s no guarantees that the new manager will get much of a budget – in-fact the inclusion of several youth players in the final matches of the season suggests that that’s the route the club could be going down.

Duff could potentially wait it out, start the 2022-23 season at Cheltenham and later in the year an attractive Championship vacancy may appear and he may be sounded out for that.

But it would be a major risk for Duff to jump to another League One club at this stage of his career – especially when their intentions in terms of how the squad is going to be put together is unclear.



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