Barnsley: Robins looks to academy players

Outside contenders for the play-offs is not a comment associated with Barnsley in recent years and proof alone of the progress in 2010 under boss Mark Robins.

Mind, the Tykes are yet to hit the top six and therein lies their manager's bugbear – wishing his side would stop taking two steps forwards only to take one and a half back.

Barnsley approached their first game of 2011 at Nottingham Forest still sitting only five points off the Championship's play-offs and a reasonably comfortable six points clear of the drop zone.

The Tykes were embedded in that zone when Robins took over in September 2009, indicating clearly the progression made, but on numerous occasions that progress has threatened to go further with the Reds no strangers to getting tantalisingly close to the division's top six.

Indeed, 2010's last month of the year provided a perfect example with

the Reds approaching Boxing Day's home game with Burnley and the Tuesday trip to Swansea knowing that six points could mathematically have put them in the play-offs.

What followed was two defeats and while pleased as a whole with his first full year in charge, Barnsley's young manager is eyeing further steps forward in 2011.

"It's been an up-and-down time of it, hasn't it?" Robins said, giving his reflections on 2010.

"In general there has been a lot of change and I think that needs time to settle.

"We've had some mixed results but so has everybody else and I think it's been right to make the changes and the overall feel is that the club is going in the right direction. However. there's still a lot to do.

"We're doing okay, we've definitely moved it on, but it's going to be difficult as it's not an overnight thing – it's something that you need time to do.

"That's what you are fighting for all the time. I think it's like last Saturday in that we were within touching distance of where we wanted to be but when we got an opportunity to take that extra step we failed and

under-performed.

"You've got to be strong and we've got to have players who are fighting for the shirt week-in week-out.

"I know what my best XI is when they are all playing well but you've got to be patient.

"When you have so much change there is always going to be a settling- in period, but there's still a long way to go."

Next up for Robins and Barnsley is the home game against Coventry City but the fact that the January transfer window is now very much ajar is not lost on Robins one bit.

The 41-year-old says he will bring in recruitments should the necessary talent be available but the Reds boss also revealed a desire to bring through more of Barnsley's home-grown talent, knowing full well that money does not grow on trees.

"We need to generate and make sure that the academy is a success and try and get one or two people through," said Robins.

"Hopefully we can do that because there are one or two who are in there who are quite promising but that's going to be down the line and a long-term process.

"We will add to that as and when we can and ultimately we will see how far we can go for the long-term plan, but I think we have got to produce more of our own players because it's been a different season this time with having a 25-man squad,

"I don't think there's many players out there who can come and help you which is why it's important that you have one or two who you can pick up off the shelf."

The likes of Jamil Adam, Reuben Noble-Lazarus, Conor Branson, Alistair Taylor, Stephen Bennett and Danny Fearnehough are, therefore, in Robins' thoughts and these youngsters would relish being drafted in for the Tykes' next Saturday date – at West Ham United in the FA Cup third round.

The tie at Upton Park presents an early occasion to savour for Reds fans, but Robins is paying no attention to the Hammers clash until tomorrow's league clash with the Sky Blues is out of the way.

"I think first and foremost the league is your bread and butter and we had two bad results over the festive period," he said.

"It made it an unhappy Christmas for me and we have to get back on track and pick up points. We will look at the West Ham game after we have played Coventry."

Following on from the Sky Blues league clash and the date against the Hammers, tough-looking clashes against Hull, Swansea and Doncaster will take the Reds through the first month of the new year.

For all of last year's progress, the Tykes are still as short as 5-1 to go down – sixth behind Preston, Scunthorpe, Crystal Palace, Sheffield United and Ipswich in the bookmakers' pecking order.

On the flip side the Reds are as big as 50-1 to go up but in Robins they have a manager who is always striving for the best.

Asked where he would like to be at the end of 2011, Robins relied: "I'm never satisfied and you've got to strive to be better all the time.

"You do that by making sure the players are ready for the games and the different challenges that come up and also by strengthening the ranks within.

"If someone becomes available who might help and who might strengthen us then we'll have a go at it but the worst thing to do is to sit still and do nothing.

"We've got to remain active and remain focused in what we need to do and what we learn from it."

What Robins has already learned is that strong Championship progression is clearly within Barnsley's compass – memorable wins against Leeds

United and Nottingham Forest a clear example.

Now the Tykes boss wants such displays on a weekly basis as the former

Rotherham United manager seeks more stellar progress in 2011.

"The capability is there when we play to our maximum – when we play to

our potential," he said.

"But that's no different to a lot of other teams in the division – there's teams with better resources but we won't go down that route.

"What we need to make sure is that we put the best team out on the pitch that we can, week-in, week-out and try and get that elusive consistency over a longer period.

"The bad weather came at a really bad time for us because we were really knocking the ball about well and I think in the two games over Christmas we fell off a little bit.

"We were giving the ball away too cheaply at times and then we had to work harder to get it back.

"We've got to be better than that and I think also on balance we have got to be more clinical in front of goal.

"If you can marry those two up you've got a successful recipe.

"That's what everybody in the league and everybody in football is

striving for."