Markus Schopp to Barnsley was an epic mismatch.
Barnsley’s success in recent years on the back of data analytics and scouting has garnered relatively significant media attention. The club for which the Wall Street Journal published the “Moneyball Experiment” is, unfortunately, struggling in the Championship. So, what exactly went wrong for the Tykes?
New ownership in town
Following the sale of a majority stake at the club in 2017 by Patrick Cryne and his family, Barnsley found new investment from the Asia-Pacific region. With the deal being completed midway through the season, Barnsley failed to avoid the drop that term. They were relegated to League One.
The following season saw the first signs of the new owners’ vision. The club allocated a separate budget for scouting the lower divisions to seek out young talent. Ben Hackney, who used to be a talent-spotter for Barnsley in previous seasons, was elevated as the head opposition scout and was allotted a separate formal scouting team. The onus was given on data and performance analytics.
Recruitment and promotion
The club focused on roping in young U-25 talents on a short-term basis. Callum Styles came in from Bury and George Miller arrived from Middlesbrough. The results were instantaneous and the club found promotion the following season.
Barnsley’s terrific 2019/20 season
Despite having the youngest squad in the Championship that season, manager Gerhard Stubber turned them into a well-knit line-up. The club managed to finish fifth, gaining one of the play-off slots. Interestingly, it was the club’s first time in the Championship play-offs in 24 years.
The experiment with Markus Schopp
Markus Schopp’s appointment was a disappointment in many ways. Following Stubber’s departure, Barnsley were expected to hire a Championship level manager to push them for Premier League promotion.
However, they ended up with Schopp who had only managed in the Austrian top division. In fact, on both his stints in Austria, his win percentage was less than 40.
He turned out to be a mismatch for the Championship.
Barnsley’s first win of the season came against Coventry in only their second game of the season. However, that turned out to be the only Championship game they managed to win under Schopp’s tenure. What followed was a 15-match winless run with nine defeats and six draws.
The only reason he lasted 16 games in the league was because of his repute for playing high-press football. Despite matching similarities to Barnsley’s vision of youth and fast-paced football, the standards of the Championship rendered the philosophy worthless.
By the time of his departure in November, the club was stuck at the bottom of the table. It was a misadventure of epic proportions and something that has periled the club’s safety in the division.