Sheffield news Every word Valerien Ismael said on Swansea, play-offs and first dates PremierLeague-News.Com
PremierLeague-News.Com - Barnsley take on Swansea City at Oakwell on Monday evening in front of 4,500 fans as they look to earn promotion to the Premier League
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! Valerien Ismael's Barnsley side have taken the Championship by storm this season, earning a mammoth 74 points from the 39 games the Frenchman has been in charge. Formerly of LASK Linz in Austria, Ismael took the Tykes job last October with the side mired in relegation trouble after miraculously escaping under Gerhard Struber the season before. Ismael has turned the side's fortunes around dramatically, soaring towards the play-offs, embedding themselves in fifth place where they finished the campaign. This means a home and away leg versus Swansea City - who have already beaten Barnsley twice this season. Ahead of one of the club's biggest games in years, Ismael has been speaking to the media. Here's every word he had to say on the task at hand. Q: Alex Mowatt, is he fit and able to play? A: All good. All the players are back in training since three days now. Alex Mowatt is back, Herbie Kane is back. Only Ben Williams is out for the game, otherwise all the players are available for the game on Monday. It's a great feeling. Q: So, Herbie Kane and Liam Kitching both options you'll have at your disposal? A: We have more options now with all the squad, we have almost without Ben Williams, otherwise all the players are back, so many options now we've got for the play-off. Q: Was the result and performance at Norwich a reminder if it was needed that you can and have competed with the best in the division? A: I think it was important to finish like that for us to have that feeling, to give a statement that everyone knows why we are fifth in the table, why we are in the play-offs because we deserve, in the way we play because [of] our intensity and the commitment on the pitch. The guys are really dedicated in the way to play and it was for me really important to finish with such a performance. It gives you a great feeling even if you don't win the game but the feeling was there and we build on that feeling, we go from there to prepare for the game versus Swansea. Q: What's the mood been like in training this week? A mixture of nerves and excitement? A: No, I have to say the guys are really, really focused, really free - I can't recognise any pressure or anything, the quality in training is really high due [to] the number of players and the joy to achieve something in the Championship and we're looking forward just for the game. We have a home game, and now the last game at Oakwell this season with our fans, we're just looking forward for the game, we want to prepare us to be ready from the first minute. Q: I see the bookmakers have you as greater favourites than Swansea to win the play-offs. Do you go into the play-offs as underdogs? A: We are the underdogs when you see the four teams in the play-offs, we are. The other teams have better players, bigger squads, than us, better players in depth in the squad - but we have our principles, our desire, we have our belief and the players raise their own performance, they discover their own greatness and mentally we are really strong and that's why on the pitch we can compete but on the paper we are clearly underdog, because it was not the expectation that Barnsley are where we are in the play-off spot, but we are here due to our performance on the pitch. Q: Does it show how well you've done, that people are considering you that highly for the play-offs? A: I think that it is a reward for the players, they give everything on the pitch and from the first minute until the last minute they are completely dedicated on our way to play, on our principles. And it just shows that when you organise, when you have focus, when you believe in yourself and your strength everything is possible and I think this is the story of Barnsley this season. But, the story's not finished, we want to put the next capital and the next capital is Swansea. Q: How does this situation compare to others in your playing and coaching career? A: I think last season it was some really big games, big achievements as well, and I think it's another one and I'm looking forward to take that experience with me but the good thing [is] we as I say, we can go into that game without any pressure, but we are really motivated to continue to move forward. This is our purpose to play at home with our fans, we're just looking forward for the game, but the desire is bigger. Q: Is this one you'd like to play in? A: I would like to play, I said to the guys many times this season, many games I would like to play with them because it's a great feeling and it's a privilege to put us in such a position and it's a great moment. You have to enjoy the moment, a big game in the players' careers and they have to take it, to give everything at the end, no regrets is the motto to say and we are ready from the first minute to start strong and we want to finish strong as well, and to have no regrets at the end of the two legs. Q: How are you going to approach the game, the first leg of play-off games are often tricky, do you want to win, are you trying not to lose - how are you going into it? A: As usual, we start from the first minute with the intensity, not because it is the play-off to change anything in our preparation or in our mindset. I think the strength in my team is just to stay focused on our way to play, what we have to do and it will be exactly the same. It's a home game with our fans, the last game at Oakwell this season and we want to finish strong at home. Q: How much are you looking forward to having supporters at Oakwell for the first time while you've been at the club? A: I said yesterday it's the same feeling when you date your wife for the first time, a lot of excitement, you are nervous. I'm just looking forward to feeling the crowd for the guys I'm really delighted and I'm grateful they give us the possibility that everyone to meet each other, the fans to meet the players, that I can meet the fans on Monday so it's really a geat feeling to have such a finish at Oakwell this season. Barnsley boss Valerien Ismael (Image: Getty Images) Q: Is it bizarre to think your first game with fans is going to be a play-off game, three games away from a potential place in the Premier League? A: First it's a home game against Swansea the home leg, I don't want to see over the two legs that one-by-one the next one is at home. I'm just looking forward for the game, all around the game with the fans back in the stadium and I think it's a great feeling. It will be really, really strange - over six months now at Oakwell it was without fans, without a crowd, without any noisy things, now I am just looking forward to hearing the noise from the crowd. Q: You lost both league games against Swansea - what can you take from those games into the play-offs? A: We took a lot of stuff from the two games, the first one we concede four goals, three from the set-pieces and one was a big mistake - that we were not so far as now and we are completely different team now, we won a lot of games after Swansea. We took Dike and Carlton Morris [in the transfer market], Liam Kitching is back, the mindset in the team is different, a lot of player have raised their own performance and we build a massive momentum on our side so we have a lot of confidence and we play without pressure so I think we are completely different team, and it won't change anything for Swansea as for me Swansea stay one of the best teams in the league and should normally be promoted - it's a big pressure on Swansea, and we know exactly that we need a forceful performance, a brilliant performance to beat them. Q: Do you feel your side is now able to cope better with teams that try to unsettle how you play like Swansea did earlier in the year? A: Yes, I think that we are now more able to adapt - we are ready to press, we are ready to fight, to defend the long ball and the second ball and I think it will be mixed from everything in the two games, and it was good to see we dealt very well in the Championship with the way to play, that the opponent change and we know that Swansea can change the shape, can change the formation, and can change the way to play and now it's no more surprise to us. Q: Swansea ended the season with one win in their last five - does form at the end of the season matter now? A: It's a new competition so I think it's important that you raise the focus and the concentration, it will be all about the details.
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. Q: Will the fact your side lost two games to Swansea be a nice motivation for you? A: Yes for sure, we didn't win against them this season so I'm really motivated to change the story against Swansea this season but we were a completely different team in December when we lost. I think we change five players in the squad from the regular starter now, we are more confident and we build a massive momentum in the last months so we respect Swansea because we know all about them and the quality they have but we deserve to be here and to show why we are in the play-off, we are not just here to have a good journey - we want to continue to move forward, we have a big desire to make a great game in the first leg and give everything to win the first leg. Q: The last time Barnsley played Swansea in the play-offs, the tie went to penalties - do you think this one will be just as close? A: I don't think so far [ahead]. I think it's important we start the game strong, this is our preparation and after we will see the development in the game and in the first leg, we stay focused on the game and my job is to prepare the guys with all the solutions to give the guys a great feeling and when the referee whistles we know we will be ready to compete. Q: You had shown pictures of Wembley to your players as an inspiration - will you be doing anything similar to try and motivate them? A: I think it's just to see the reward why we do this, why we are here. We are just thinking about Swansea and it's two games and the reward if you overcome Swansea is Wembley - I think it's clear in the mind of all the player and the staff, all the people in the club, but for that we need first to have two massive performance but we need to have purpose. We made it all the season through we put all the time a line to the guys, this is what we want to reach and when we reach that line we take another one, and now that line is Swansea first, when you overcome Swansea, the reward will be Wembley. Q: Is the pressure on Swansea something you can use to your advantage as nobody expected Barnsley to be in this position? A: Yes exactly, I think it's maybe the first and the last time Barnsley will be in such a position, when you are over all the odds and expectation, when you are in a position where you can only win. This is a great position but you have to do everything to continue to move forward and the preparation for the guys is important, to enjoy and to take the feeling, all the preparation, all the focus on the game and I think it's an important part to have the possibility to play without pressure. Q: Why is it a team that avoided relegation last season is now in this position? A: I think we've got so many steps to come where we are and the first step was for sure the game we lost against Cardiff 3-0 - for me it was the breakthrough to understand the Championship and to know exactly what we need to compete, and the first step was after the sixth win in eight games in December, it put us in great position to mentally know that we can reach our first purpose to stay in the league as quick as possible. I think that January the three games we lost in-a-row was an important learning process for the guys because we were always near to win the game against the top team. Then came the transfer window, we made very good decision, especially Dan Murphy, with Dike and Carlton Morris and add some quality in our squad and in our front three - both players had massive impact on our game. The last step was the game against Chelsea, it was a gamechanger for everyone to see if you can compete at that level against one of the best teams in the world that you can do this against all the teams in the Championship. After that we won seven games in-a-row after that game, it changed the mindset of the players and we became a top team after that run. And the mentality of the guys was always strong, when we reached the play-off spot we never dropped down out of the play-off spot and it showed the mentality because it's a big difference to chase the position and be chased. You need to be strong and to have consistency, this is the big development from the guys this season, to perform when you have to perform.
Barnsley head coach Valerien Ismael
Q: What do you remember of Barnsley in 1998 when you were fighting relegation from the Premier League in Crystal Palace? A: At that time it was a difficult situation, I can't remember Barnsley at that time, we didn't play against them. Q: You talk about pressure being on Swansea, is that because you expected them to win automatic promotion? A: Yes, at the beginning when I came I recognised three or four teams, I said 'they have to be in the first two places' and Swansea was among those teams, they were all the time very high in the table and at the end they lost a couple of games in a bad period and they dropped more in the table but you see til February that Swansea was able to stay in position one or two in the table. It's a big team, with a brilliant manager and for sure it's massive pressure on Swansea now in the play-offs and it's a new competition so you never know, everything can happen and this is the good thing because it give us more chance to compete. Q: Swansea beat you twice this season, you say you're a different team, psychologically is there any impact this will have on you or on Swansea that they might underestimate you? A: No I don't think so, I think Swansea prepare the two games with a lot of respect and really focus and this is my expectation for the game. I think for us it doesn't change anything that Swansea beat us two times, because we know we are a completely different team now, we are definitely different mindset and our mentality, the guys change their own performance, they put their own performance on the next level. It's just all about the first leg, we play at home, we want to have an outstanding performance to put us in the best position for the second leg. Q: Are you a fan of the play-off system and have you experienced it before? A: Yes, in Austria last season it was a little bit different with the play-off system, but I think now I'm looking forward to the first experience of play-offs in England it's a massive feeling for me, the season is normally finished but we extend with at least two games, and I think it's a great feeling to be a part of the play-off now. Q: How much are you looking forward to experience an English crowd - when was the last time you managed in front of a crowd? A: It was last season, in the Europa League we played against Manchester United but it was the first day before the pandemic came and was a game without the crowd, but I think it's a long time ago now for everyone to play without a crowd so it's more than one year now and I'm just looking forward to share and to have the emotional connection with our fans. Q: How much did you know about Daryl Dike, what has he brought beyond the goals? A: I think it's a teamwork. With Dan Murphy we spoke earlier in December and we target a striker, we had three names among our list, Dike was among them. For sure it was important to have a striker that can make the difference and Dan Murphy sent me the Dike clips and I recognised straight away that he's a player for us. They told me it could be a tight situation with him because the transfer window close on the Monday and on the Sunday Dike play with the national team and he needed to play to get the points you need to have the possibility to play in England - we took a big risk but the feeling was then that Dike was the right player for us and it was the right decision, but the big reward is on Dan Murphy because it was a difficult task but at the end of the day, it was job done.
Barnsley boss Valerien Ismael
(Image: Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images)
Q: Did you expect Dike to have such an impact (18 apps, 9 goals) in such a short space of time? A: It's always our expectation especially when you make transfers in the winter window you don't have time, and when the player comes they have to have the impact straight away, it's always in your mind as a manager that summer is something different, you have more time to prepare the guys but in winter you have to take the right decision but I think the second thing we took our time to work with him, to work on our principles, to explain to him, we have a couple of weeks to work with him and he understood quickly what we wanted to see on the pitch and after it's his own quality that makes the difference Q: Swansea play with a three-man defence, and you play with a three-man attack - do you think that's going to be a key area for Daryl Dike to be a key player in this fixture? A: We have so many key players in our team, Daryl Dike is among the key players - this is a good thing, we are not dependent only on only one player, [we have] Alex Mowatt, Cauley Woodrow, Carlton Morris, Callum Styles, Callum Brittain so we have so many key player that can make the difference at any moment and this is the big step we make this season with the team that we are the danger come from everywhere - this is a big improvement. But as Barnsley you need to keep your players always fresh always available because with our key players, it's a massive difference. Q: Freddie Woodman has 20 clean sheets this season for Swansea - how do you prepare against a player in such form? A: Yes, he had a good year but it was at the beginning and at the end Swansea concede a lot of goals and this is what counts. When we play against them in December and January, it was exactly the situation that Swansea were really strong and lot of clean sheets but since a few weeks now they concede goals, a lot of chances and this is why we work on it, but the main focus is on ourselves and how we score - we know exactly what we have to do. We have to be ruthless and it will be important, if you to come through you have to score. Q: How are the players feeling about playing in front of the home crowd? A: They are really excited I think it's a new feeling for them, because it's a big reward for all the season. What I say at the beginning that after such a season that normally is finished and we extend for two games and the last game at Oakwell this season will be with fans, I think it's a fantastic story for us, for the guys, we want to share the emotional season with our fans, the chance for our fans to see the team, to give some emotion back, but my expectation is that the emotional connection with the fans to support the player to push the player over the limit because this is what we have to do to overcome our limit to reach something on Monday. Q: What is your message to the fans on Monday night? A: You may be only 4,500 but make noise, be noisy like 30,000 - this is the only message I can say. We are looking forward to meeting you and the players are looking forward, I am looking forward, my staff too but we want to continue to move forward altogether.
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