Barnsley FC has spent one season in its long history in the Premier League, in 1997-98. It was relegated immediately after finishing in 19th place on 35 points that season.
What came in the decades that followed was a series of promotions and relegations between England's second and third divisions. After dropping to League One following the 2017-18 season, Barnsley earned promotion back to the Championship at the first attempt under manager Daniel Stendel. Stendel was relieved of his duties in October 2019 with the team in 21st place and replaced by Gerhard Struber. The Austrian left five months into a successful spell at Wolfsberger AC in his homeland to take the Barnsley job.
Despite narrowly avoiding relegation, Struber stayed on for the following campaign but lasted just seven matches before getting sacked last October. Barnsley appointed Valérien Ismaël, who departed LASK in Austria over the summer of 2020, and the team's turnaround was almost immediate. Barnsley won four of the first five games under its new manager and now sits in eighth place on 48 points — just one point off the top six and a promotion playoff spot. Barnsley also has a game in hand on all the sides above it in the table.
The team has won its last four league games, all of which USMNT forward Daryl Dike has played some part in. Dike, 20, arrived at the club on loan from MLS side Orlando City at the beginning of February. The physically imposing Dike burst onto the scene with Orlando last season, scoring eight goals and assisting four more in 17 appearances, bullying and bossing defenses.
That form saw Dike draw reported interest from Europe, with Belgian side Club Brugge tracking the rookie. Ultimately, though, it was Barnsley that secured his services and the early signs of his tenure in the Championship have been positive.
His first game with the club was a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup, in which he played a half hour off the bench. Ismaël said after his debut: "We could see what we believe in him, with his power, speed and physicality to give us more options in our front three."
Three days later came Dike's first start, on the right wing in a 2-0 win against then-leaders Brentford. Against Stoke this week, Dike got off the mark for Barnsley with a late goal that sealed a 2-0 win.
Edmond Oklahoman Daryl Dike’s first goal in English Football pic.twitter.com/KuPy9y0ozp— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) February 24, 2021
“It’s great to get another three points and keep bouncing,” Dike told the club afterward. "Everyone wants to keep winning and keep pushing with the momentum. ... I think the team can go as far as we can take this. We’ve proved that we can compete with any team and proved that, with recent results, we can continue moving up the table. We’re in eighth right now, but that’s not where we want to be; we want to keep moving up.”
Preach! pic.twitter.com/iOlKk8qkwr— Barnsley FC (@BarnsleyFC) February 24, 2021
Dike looks as though he has the talent to become a mainstay in a top European league, and a stint at Barnsley is a perfect chance for him to develop and establish himself. When he joined, club CEO Dane Murphy told the Yorkshire Post: "When it became known that he was coming to us, there have been several Premier League teams who have reached out and said they are going to monitor him and they have him on their radar."
Murphy also confirmed that Barnsley has a purchase option on Dike that could potentially be exercised if he continues to impress in Yorkshire. Whatever his next step turns out to be, Dike is undoubtedly one of the most exciting of several promising USMNT prospects currently plying their trade.