From Germany’s rock to Barnsley’s hero – Valérien Ismaël’s journey to management

Written by Omar Garrick

Feature image taken by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Barnsley’s promotion push in the Championship has been spearheaded by the influential Valérien Ismaël, who came in at the start of the season to stabilise the South Yorkshire side.

Instead, the Tykes have secured a play-off position, with only three matches separating them from the Premier League.

But his rise to management is something that has gone under the radar. Speaking after the match against Millwall, it was clear that ‘trust’ was a fundamental aspect to his management style.

He said: “The most important aspect to management is loyalty, because you have to make sure the players have belief, and if they have that, then they’ll perform to a higher standard.”

Ismaël’s players have responded to his demands in spectacular fashion, losing just three times in 18 matches, allowing the club to climb above their promotion rivals.

During this sensational run-in, they won 13 of their games, creating a buzz that hasn’t been seen in the city for a very long time.

Evidently, Ismael’s tactics have rubbed off on his squad, with striker Victor Adeboyejo, 23, full of praise for the Frenchman’s modus operandi.

When asked about how vocal the manager was, he said: “the gaffer speaks to me all the time, but he does that with everyone in the squad. It’s nice to have someone that always has faith in you.

“The manager has made sure that all of us (strikers) have a big part to play. He makes us feel special.”

During his time as a player, Valerien was a tall, strong and ferocious centre-back, making a name for himself during his time in Germany.

Accustoming his Barnsley side to a ‘three at the back’ formation, his defensive capabilities as a player have certainly been influential to his managerial strategies.

He was sensationally part of a Werder Bremen side that won the league and cup double in 2004. His talents were eventually swept up by Bayern Munich in 2005.

Valérien Ismaël at Bayern Munich. Photo from

The 45-year-old won the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal double in Bavaria, but his exit was swift due to frequent injury struggles.

Despite this, German football expert Raphael Honigstein believes his time at both Bremen and Munich influenced his management technique.

“Ismaël was technically a very good player, but his times at Bremen and Munich were different in many ways,” he says.

“The Bayern team he was part of were incredibly muscular and had individual talent. At Werder, they had a special relationship between the team, manager and city.

“Valerien was always a smart character. In Bavaria, he wasn’t a standout individual. I presume he was like this at Bremen. He was hampered by injuries, but I can only guess that all of this influenced his management style.”

Barnsley CEO Dane Murphy was the man behind the employment of Ismael. His decision has paid off in striking fashion and many supporters across South Yorkshire will be hoping for brighter things to come under his regime.


Written by Omar Garrick

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