With the end of the season fast approaching, the relegation battle in The Championship is hotting up. With seven teams stuck in the mire – and three to drop into England’s third tier – how do Barnsley stack up against their relegation rivals?
Barnsley Football Club find themselves in a spot of bother. Sitting 21st in England’s second tier – one point and one place above the relegation zone – they have 13 matches to save their season. They are one of seven teams fighting for their life at the bottom of The Championship, and with three relegation places up for grabs, here is your rundown of who’s who in this season’s relegation scrap.
24th Place: Sunderland – Played: 34, Points: 27.
Oh dear oh dear. Where do we start with Sunderland?
Freshly relegated from the Premier League, Sunderland are currently facing back-to-back relegations.
Five wins all season, waning attendances and an astronomical wage bill – they are this season’s circus club.
The appointment of former Wales boss Chris Coleman in November has done little to stop the rot in the North East, and time is running out.
Sunderland in recent weeks are showing signs they won’t go down with a whimper. Coming back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at Bristol City – and with a 96th minute equaliser to draw 3-3 against Middlesbrough – Sunderland have just managed to keep their heads above water.
If the Black Cats want to stay up, however, they have to start winning matches, and fast.
Key Fixtures Remaining: Reading (A), Burton (H).
23rd Place: Burton Albion – Played: 34, Points: 29.
After surviving their first Championship campaign last season – Burton Albion are once again right in the thick of things down at the bottom.
Very much the minnows of the league, with the smallest of budgets, the job Nigel Clough has done at the Pirelli Stadium cannot be understated.
To their credit, unlike Rotherham last season, Burton have not been cut adrift at the bottom of the table. Far from it.
A lack of goals has hurt Burton this season, so the acquisition of Darren Bent on loan has certainly created some excitement around the club.
Unfortunately, however, this year Burton may be running out of steam. They are a club who are punching well above their weight and their small squad is well and truly being stretched.
Just two points from safety, Burton are down but not out.
Key Fixtures Remaining: Birmingham (A), Hull (H), Sunderland (A), Bolton (H).
22nd Place: Birmingham City – Played: 34, Points: 30.
Birmingham City have made quite the habit of entangling themselves in a Championship relegation battle.
Three of their last five seasons have ended in narrowly avoiding relegation – something which is unlikely to appease the fans of a club of that size.
This season is looking as bleak as it’s ever been. Four defeats on the trot have left fans calling for the head of manager Steve Cotterill, who took over from Harry Redknapp early in the campaign.
With just 22 goals all season, it is clear to see where Birmingham’s issues lie.
Although they are just one point from safely, there is a growing sense of inevitability about Birmingham’s demise.
Things are not quite as toxic around St Andrew’s as they are up in Sunderland – but, since inexplicably sacking Gary Rowett whilst in 7th place last season, the club has been heading in an alarmingly downward trajectory.
There is no reason why the Blues cannot stay up – but if they don’t, it has been a long time coming.
Key Fixtures Remaining: Hull (H), Bolton (A), Burton (H).
21st Place: Barnsley – Played: 33, Points: 31.
Right in the thick of things, Barnsley have had a tough season. Following Paul Heckingbottom’s departure to Leeds United, the Tykes turned to former Chelsea assistant Jose Morais to steer them to safety.
Having been taken over by a Chinese Billionaire earlier in the season, relegation would not be conducive to attracting the quality players they desire with their newfound wealth.
The signings of Oliver McBurnie and Kieffer Moore have strengthened Barnsley’s front line, and a crucial 2-0 away win against Birmingham has kept the side outside the drop zone.
Despite a squad that was relatively cheaply assembled – especially considering the money spent by some of their relegation rivals – Barnsley are still a club who are looking upwards.
There is little of the negativity around Oakwell which is present at Hull or Sunderland, and this backing from the fans could well push Barnsley over the line.
Their game in hand is a crucial face-off with Hull City, and a positive result would do wonders for propelling them to safety.
Key Fixtures Remaining: Hull (A), Bolton (H).
20th Place: Hull City – Played: 33, Points: 32.
Another newly relegated side struggling at the bottom of the table, Hull City’s season has been a disaster.
Neither Leonid Slutsky or Nigel Adkins have managed to get a tune out of this talented squad, despite the lack of any serious investment.
Fan discord against the owners has done little to help their cause, their latest protest briefly halting their home win against Sheffield United by throwing sponge balls onto the pitch.
If Hull do manage to stay up, it will be thanks to their home form, as they are now unbeaten in seven matches at the KCOM.
Due to the woeful form of the sides below them, coupled with the undoubted quality of their squad, Hull City fans will be hopeful they have enough to stay up.
Key Fixtures Remaining: Barnsley (H), Birmingham (A), Burton (A).
19th Place: Bolton Wanderers – Played: 34, Points: 34.
At the start of December, Bolton found themselves rock bottom of The Championship. Their shocking start to the season meant they quickly became many people’s favourites to be relegated, making a swift return back to League One.
Since then, Phil Parkinson has somewhat turned things around, and with a four-point gap between them and Birmingham, Bolton fans will more than fancy their chances of staying up.
The Trotters have lost just one home game since September – a remarkable stat considering their position in the table.
The signings of Jan Kirchhoff and Zach Clough are exciting, and Bolton are now very much expecting to remain in the division.
Crucial away games against four of their relegation rivals will make or break their campaign.
Key Fixtures Remaining: Reading (A), Birmingham (A), Barnsley (A), Burton (A).
18th Place: Reading – Played: 33, Points: 34.
Last season, Reading were a penalty shootout away from the Premier League. Their play-off defeat to Huddersfield was heart-breaking, but Reading would have been confident about mounting another promotion push under Jaap Stam.
The reality has been very different.
It goes to show how unpredictable The Championship is, that a team one penalty away from the Premier League can find themselves in a relegation battle the next, despite keeping the majority of their squad from last season.
Just three league victories since November has left fans disgruntled with their manager, but the Royals will need their supporters onside during their run-in. A tough task considering they are England’s most placid fan base.
Unlike Bolton, Reading have little (upward) momentum. Despite their poor form, the points they have on the board should just be enough for them to survive.
Key Fixtures Remaining: Bolton (H), Sunderland (H).