Barnsley’s unique playing style has ruffled plenty of feathers this season and striker Cauley Woodrow is not about to start apologising.
The Reds take on Swansea in the first leg of their Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final on Monday night at Oakwell and Woodrow says the visitors know they face an irksome task.
Barnsley have been transformed in just over six months under manager Valerien Ismael’s gegenpressing brand of football, rising from the bottom four to the brink of the Premier League.
Woodrow told the PA news agency: “Everyone now is aware how we want to play. It’s obviously a high press and high energy and that’s why they employed the gaffer. That’s the style he wants to play.
“People say we’re direct, but there is a big thought process behind it. There is a full plan. I’m not going to tell you the secrets behind it all in what we do.
“But it’s very difficult to play against as teams have found out this season. It’s not pleasant for teams to play against.
“It’s just us buying into what he wants and our different presses, our different styles, areas of the pitch we want to exploit.
“A lot of teams this season have given us a lot of credit and a lot have given us a lot of stick, but that’s just how it goes.”
Swansea, who finished two points and a place above Barnsley in the table, beat Ismael’s side 2-0 in both games during the regular season.
But the Welsh club’s skipper Matt Grimes has admitted Barnsley’s approach is difficult to counter and the play-off “will be an interesting match-up”.
Valerien, appointed by Barnsley as Gerhard Struber’s successor in October, employed similar tactics at former club LASK in Austria and has tailored his approach specifically for the Championship.
“One of our players (Dominik Frieser) has played under him at their previous club and some things are very similar, but also some things are very different,” Woodrow said.
“I think that’s a sign of a good manager. The Championship is a tough, tough league. A few clubs try and play very pretty, nice football, but they’re not quite good enough to get to where they want to be.
“Then you have teams that are set up very strongly, like we are. We make it unpleasant. High energy, high press, so I think he’s changed his style in some ways, but stuck to his fundamentals in others.
“That’s a sign of a good manager. He’s played in England as well and understands it’s totally different here to some of the clubs in Europe, that do just play possession football.
“You can’t do that in the Championship all the time, it’s a totally different league, totally different players. He’s definitely changed some things.”