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EPL news 2021, Championship play offs final, Barnsley vs Bournemouth, Moneyball, Billy Beane, Premier League, latest

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Everyone knows the story of baseball’s Oakland Athletic. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill did an Oscar-nominated job of telling it.

How, fresh from losing their three best players in 2001, general manager Billy Beane made the unpopular decision that he was fed up of having to shop in Louis Vuitton on a H&M budget and decided to do something about it.

Rather than replace his three stars with like-for-like replacements, he implemented a statistical, data-led approach and went shopping in the league’s bargain basement, targeting players to fit the mould of what was needed.

They improved on their record from the previous year, went on a historic 20-game winning streak and never looked back.

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Billy Beane is a part-owner of Barnsley and is seeing his Moneyball methods implemented.Source: Getty Images

Nearly 20 years later and the same model is bearing fruits for a different team, in a completely different sport. From Oakland in California to Oakwell in Yorkshire, England.

Beane was part of an international consortium who took over Championship side Barnsley shortly before their relegation to League One in 2017, the third tier of the English football ladder, and helped set about a rebuild based on those ‘Moneyball’ principles.

Fast-forward four years and Barnsley are considered to be playing the best football outside of the Premier League, with an average squad age of just 23 and a wage bill dwarfed by the traditionally bigger clubs battling at the other end of the table.

Under their specifically-chosen managers, Barnsley have adopted a data-led, youth-centric, energetic, high-pressing game and brought in players whose attributes fit into that style of play. Their numbers – both physical and financial – are more important than their names to the club.

Pacific Media Group (PMG), the consortium that owns Barnsley and which Beane is a partner of, appointed Daniel Stendel first, an unknown manager who had been out of work for a year and had only taken charge of 34 senior games in his career. But in those games, his team had pressed opponents high up the field and scored lots of goals.

He got Barnsley back into the Championship at the first time of asking and the foundations of the club’s long-term vision, which all appointments – staff and players – have fitted since, was born.

PMG’s first investments were actually in films, such as The Martian and X-Men: Apocalypse, but the certainty of their approach at Barnsley led to more investors, including to co-owners of the Tampa Bay Rays, who reached the World Series last season with one of the lowest budgets in baseball.

Stendel was replaced by Gerhard Struber and when he left for New York Red Bulls, PMG pocketed the compensation and went an unearthed another gem of a manager in Valerien Ismael. It’s all part of the ‘buy low, sell high’ approach.

Paul Conway, the American co-founder of PMG told The Athletic: “Our model has a sound prospectus and we’re pretty ruthless. We are a small team and it was inevitable there would be pushback to what we wanted to do at first at Nice and Barnsley.

“But we’re three years in now and Barnsley are humming. Whatever happens in the run-in, we’ll be competitive again next season. Apart from one player, we own the whole squad and they’re young.”

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill starred in the movie Moneyball.Source: Supplied

PMG have acquired five clubs across Europe to the tune of just over £40m, while to the likes of Sheikh Mansour acquired his 10 clubs for more than £1bn and Red Bull for more than £300m. All five clubs are run in the same manner, with Conway revealing a how a small experience at French club Nancy encapsulates exactly how they work across the board.

“There wasn’t much we could do at Nancy this season but we’ve shown the coach (the highly experienced Jean-Louis Garcia) our data. We asked him why he was playing all these guys aged 30 or over, who account for 40 per cent of the wage bill. He said, ‘Because they’re our best-paid players’. We said, ‘How’s that working out?’

“We had a France under-17 international (Warren Bondo) in the youth team. We said, ‘The kid’s got to play, he’s our best prospect, don’t hide him’.

“If you have a strategy, stick with it. There’s so much noise in football and people just don’t have the balls to stick to their guns. We got a call from an English club recently because they were thinking about hiring a German coach who didn’t know the EFL. What did they do? They went with an English guy. They didn’t have the guts to do it.

“It’s the same with agents. When we want to sell a player, we have a good idea of who might need him. So, we call them up and ask if they want to make us an offer — 90 per cent of clubs don’t do this. They leave it to agents.”

And now they sit in the final playoff place, guaranteed at a two-legged shot at the final, at trip to Wembley and a shot a claiming the £170m ($300m) prize that comes with it.

It’s a far cry from 12 months ago where they only survived relegation by the skin of their teeth, thanks to a timely 12-point deduction to Wigan for going into administration and a final-day win over another Moneyball-run club in Brentford, whom they could face in the post-season playoff final.

Pitt’s Beane character famously says in the movie: “If we win the last game of the season, we change the game. That’s what I want. I want it to mean something.”

If Barnsley do that this year, then finally it will.

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Gary Lineker sends Man Utd a timely Jadon Sancho transfer reminder – 'Don't forget'

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The Borussia Dortmund winger played a huge part in winning the DFB-Pokal final on Thursday night.

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