From Bayern to Barnsley – the inside track on West Brom target Valerien Ismael

Valerien Ismael is now Albion’s number one target to be the club’s next boss.

The former Crystal Palace and Bayern Munich defender has previously had spells in charge of Greek outfit Apollon Smyrnis and Austrian side LASK.

But it’s the job he has done at Barnsley that has seen him come to the attention of a host of clubs in England.

We spoke to Doug O’Kane, sports editor at the Barnsley Chronicle, to find out more about the 45-year-old boss.

Can you sum up Ismael’s impact at Barnsley?

When Ismael arrived at Barnsley there was a fantastic team spirit.

The team had managed to pull off a great escape on the final day of the previous season despite having been in the relegation zone for 311 days.

That team spirit wasn’t enough to get results at the start of the campaign though. And when Ismael arrived, Barnsley were 21st in the table and only out the relegation zone on goal difference.

But he came in with a clear style and completely turned things around.

They ended up finishing fifth, which really was an extraordinary achievement.

What is Ismael’s style?

Barnsley are a club with a high-pressing philosophy.

That’s why a lot of their managerial appointments have either come from the second tier in Germany or the top tier in Austria. And Ismael also plays with a high press and lots of energy.

He calls his style ‘vertical football.’

There is no denying Barnsley played a lot of long balls under him. They would never play out from the back.

But they also played some good football as well. Ismael is all about getting the ball into the final third as quickly as possible.

And it was clear last season that had been drilled in to both the defenders and midfielders.

But once it is there they get it down and play. Under him, Barnsley scored some of the best team goals I have ever seen them score.

Why has Ismael been so successful at Barnsley?

I think a lot of teams in the Championship struggled to cope with his

style.

And he managed to really built on the togetherness that was already in place.

There is no denying he has a clear way of playing but he is also very good at getting across to his players exactly what he wants.

The players at Barnsley absolutely love him. He has won titles with Bayern Munich which immediately commands respect.

But personality wise, he has a real air of authority but also a warmth to him. Finishing fifth really was beyond anyone’s wildest expectations and he was the main reason for that.

They had one of the smallest budgets in the league but Barnsley won 29 more points last season than in the previous campaign.

That is unheard of really.

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