From the Archives : Embrace Consistent Inconsistancy

I wrote this piece for Life’s A Pitch in February of last year, and looking back over it now, it seems as fitting now as it did then…

One from the archives.

 

 

This season has undoubtedly been a difficult one in the world of Barnsley FC. It has, however, at the same time, been an unquestionable success.

The current Championship table sees the Tykes sat in 15th position, with 39 points from 29 games, and a tough home tie against high-flying and in-form Birmingham City at the weekend. When you take into account that when Keith Hill and David Flitcroft (or Hillcroft, as they are affectionately known) took over that their objective was to avoid relegation, we Reds fans seemingly have little to worry or even moan about, as Barnsley sit a full 15 points above Doncaster in the relegation zone.

However, we have developed a reputation as something of a Jekyll and Hyde team, a view that is emphasised by the fact that we haven’t drawn for a Championship-leading 21 games. Until this can be addressed, and the team can start grinding out boring 0-0 draws (we haven’t managed a clean sheet since a 2-0 victory over Doncaster on November 19), then we are unlikely to challenge further up the table.

But I’m not here to yearn for drab encounters, or even clean sheets. I enjoy games like our 4-3 win against Peterborough just a little too much for that, no matter how hard it might be on my fingernails. Instead, I’m here to plead with Barnsley fans to realise just how good we’ve got things this season under Hillcroft.

Thanks to some fantastic performances this season, including a 4-1 victory over Leeds United on New Year’s Eve and away wins at Reading and Leicester, Tykes fans have forgotten the hardships that our club have been through in the last few years. Since our return to the Championship in 2006, we have faced a perennial relegation battle, under Andy Richie, Simon Davey and Mark Robins.

This season, however, things are different. We’ve been on the verge of the playoffs at times, and as I mentioned earlier, we are more than clear of the relegation zone as things stand. If we put together a few wins again, as we have at times this season, then the distant dream of the playoffs might not seem as far away.

What we as Reds fans must remember though is that, our team this season is almost the very definition of a work in progress. Ricardo Vaz Te was given his chance by Keith Hill when no-one else wanted him, grabbed it with both hands, and then left when the pound signs of West Ham came calling. Unfortunately, the same applied to Danny Drinkwater, who Hill made a star of, before Leicester’s money snatched him from our grasp.

Hillcroft are building a team, made up predominantly of lower-league players, who in fairness are performing as well, and sometimes better than the established Championship squad members that we already have.

This is when we, as fans, should take a step back and admire the job that Hill and ‘Flicker’ are doing at our club. A number of times already this season, our fans have jumped on the back of the players, booing at the final whistle when we haven’t matched those heady heights and tremendous performances. It is important to remember that we are far from the finished article, but are more than heading in the right direction.

This should be seen as a season designated to progress. If we can ward off the attentions of Ken Bates and Leeds United, who seem to be sniffing around our manager, then we are building a team to be proud of at Oakwell, but have to realise that it can’t happen overnight, and that we will have a few poor results along the way.

However, it should only take turning a few of the disappointing defeats into draws, or ground-out victories, and the playoff dream may be very much alive.

For now, we should realise that we won’t win every game, especially as the team is still growing and the players are learning each other’s games… Until then, let’s celebrate the good times when they arrive, and approach the defeats with a sense of realism. For now, let’s embrace our consistent inconsistency.

What we’re up against – Meeting Peterborough

Saturday’s draw against Ipswich was a funny result in many ways for the Reds.

First of all, it would be irresponsible not to take into account how poorly the team played from the off, allowing an Ipswich team that had previously looked devoid of confidence to boss us around, and although there was more than a little bit of fortune with their opening goal – one that Ben Alnwick won’t have wanted to see again in a hurry – it would be difficult to argue that we didn’t deserve to go in behind at half time.

However, in true footballing cliche style, it really was a game of two halves, with the Reds playing slick, passing, possession football in the second half, and ‘footballing’ Ipswich to death after the break. Stephen Dawson put in the kind of performance that you dream of from you midfield, capped by a magnificent goal that was worthy of winning any game, never mind leveling it up, and special mention should go to Jacob Mellis for the exquisite ball to his midfield partner.

So, a case of two points dropped rather than one gained? Perhaps, but it would also probably be fair to say that when taking the whole game into consideration, rather than just the pulsating second half, a point was arguably a fair result.

Next up to visit Oakwell are Peterborough, who, before Saturday, were yet to register a single point this season, although their three against Hull, thanks to a hat-trick from Emile Sinclair will have them brimming with confidence ahead of tonight’s game. Just our luck.

I got in touch with John Verrall of the Peterborough United Football Blog to see what we can expect from tonight’s encounter.

Dan: You picked up your first win, and points of the season on Saturday. What changed from your previous matches?

JV: “It’s hard to pin-point one thing really, but a change of formation definitely helped out. Darren Ferguson tried out a 3-5-2 formation and things seemed to click. Ferguson has tried out a number of formations this season – including the previously favoured diamond – but to little success, however, the first outing of this new system seemed to have the desired impact and was a big factor in getting our first win of the season.

“The other thing that helped was having an attacking outlet that seemed a constant threat. Tyrone Barnett, Lee Tomlin and the now Ipswich man, Paul Taylor, have been Ferguson’s main striker options throughout this season, but none have performed to the sort of standard needed. Sinclair, however, took his hat-trick brilliantly, creating two of his three goals for himself and finishing well on all three.”

Do you think you have the right man in the hotseat? Or is it time for a new approach?

“Myself, and most other Posh fans, are firmly beyond Darren Ferguson still. There have been a few murmurings of discontent towards his management, but I still believe he is a superb manager.

He, however, most take some criticism for our poor start. Constant tactical changes and strange team selections have been a common feature so far this season and, despite us clearly needing some added impetus to the team, they have done more harm than good.

He has also gone back on his word on a certain number of issues. The youngsters, Kosi Nthle and Joe Newell were supposed to be first-team regulars this season, but appear to already have lost their place and some of the player’s abilities have been publically questioned after Ferguson had earlier said he had assembled his best squad ever. Furthermore Saido Berhaino was brought in on loan yesterday despite Ferguson and Darragh MacAnthony, the chairman, stating we would not be using the loan market at-all this season.”

Our 4-3 win at your place was a stunning encounter last season. Are there any other memorable clashes between the two teams that stick in your head?

“It certainly was. Everything Barnsley touched seemed to go in and there were some absolutely unbelievable goals! Unfortunately, the return leg at Oakwell wasn’t so much of a spectacle.

I suppose the game which will forever be consigned to Posh history is the one at Oakwell in 2009-2010 which our relegation was confirmed. We had a young-squad out and battled to a rather surprising point, but it wasn’t enough to keep us from being mathematically relegated.”

Have you seen much of Barnsley this season? What do you make of us, if you have?

“I was travelling back from Posh when your game against Birmingham was on the television, but from the highlights on the ‘Football League Show’ you looked very impressive.

Initially I had you down as relegation certainties, but Keith Hill appears to be doing an excellent job and the form of players like Craig Davies is bound to a massive bonus.”

Who should we be worrying about coming up against on Saturday?

“Emile Sinclair will obviously be going in to the game full of confidence after his hat-trick at the weekend, but a big performance will be expected of Tyrone Barnett.

“Barnett was brought in for over £1m from Crawley and the start to his Posh career was scintillating. His form has tailed off since and, despite showing flashes of class, he has not scored yet this season or proved he has the ability to live-up to the record price tag, and with his strike-partner finding form, he will be determined not to be over-shadowed.”

Sinclair with his match ball

On a similar theme, are there any Barnsley players that you are worried about having to play against?

“Craig Davies is obviously a threat up-front and will cause problems for our defence – which looks leaky at best. I also like the look of Stephen Foster and Jacob Mellis from what I have seen.”

How would you expect your team to line up on Saturday? Do you have any big names missing?

“Olejnik; Rowe; Brisley, Alcock, Knight-Percieval; Alcock; Bostwick, Ferdinand; Boyd; Sinclair, Barnett.

“That leaves our club captain Gabriel Zakuani out for the second game running as I can’t see Ferguson changing a winning line-up. Zakuani was our player of the season last year, but his place has already been put under pressure this year with his faults – namely his lack of ability in possession – coming to the fore and, as it stands, it looks like he faces a fight to get his place back.”

And finally, can I trouble you for a prediction?

“I’ll go with a 1-1 draw in a scrappy game, but I’m normally terrible at predictions.”

My thanks go to John for taking his time to talk to us, and I wish him and Peterborough all the best for the remainder of the season, after tonight of course.

“I wanted to stay at Barnsley – I never wanted to leave” – A chat with Neil Redfearn

If there is one player that sums up the relative success that Barnsley enjoyed in the end of the late nineties, one player that opitomised the work ethic that our club thrived upon, one player that was ‘Mr Barnsley’ himself – then it was Neil Redfearn.

 

‘Redders’ had already established himself as a popular, hard-working midfielder when he signed from Oldham having helped them gain promotion to the top flight. Deemed surplus to requirements at Boundary Park, he made the move to Oakwell, and the Lactics’ loss was certainly our gain.

It’s unlikely that anyone that had any interest in reading this post in the first place needs reminding of what happened next for the midfield maestro. Going on to install himself as arguably THE fans’ favourite of all time at the club (he has been voted our greatest ever player), Redfearn made 272 appearances for the Reds, notching an impressive 72 goals along the way.

He was instrumental in the promotion season, scoring 17 goals from midfield as we reached the promised land of the Premier League for the first time. It is clear by talking to the other members of that squad that the whole dressing room looked up to Redfearn, with Andy Liddell describing him as ‘Mr Barnsley’, and fittingly it would be Redders who would score the club’s first goal in top flight football. But how did he feel before the West Ham game,  and how did he think we would perform in the Premier League?

“I was quite relaxed on the day (of the West Ham game) which was a bit worrying as I always liked to feel a bit nervous before a game, I felt it helped me to get pumped up for it. The team that we had then was the best footballing team that I was ever a part of in my career, and it was a pleasure to play in. I didn’t know how we would do in the league. It was a bit like going into the unknown, to be honest. Though I knew we would be up for it, I didn’t know much about our foreign signings that summer and how they would gel with the lads.”

It was of course Redfearn’s goal that put the Tykes one-nil up on that glorious, carnival-like day, and the packed Oakwell could do nothing but dream of big things when his header hit the net. A goal which, incidentally, put us top of the Premier League for the briefest of moments.

“It was fantastic feeling to score that goal. I remember it hitting the back of the net and seeing a wall of red and white erupt at the back of the goal, then wheeling away to celebrate with them. It’s the game that I look back on most fondly of the season, as it was my first in the top flight, although I think Manchester United at home in the cup was probably our best team performance.

“The worst? Getting relegated at Leicester. Even though it looked extremely difficult to stay up, it was still heartbreaking when it actually happened. Until then, I really didn’t think we would go down.”

Redders went on to win a lot of fans throughout the Premier League season, missing only one game due to a bout of flu and finishing the campaign as the league’s top-scoring midfielder with an impressive 10 goals – but which was his favourite of the bunch?

“The strike at Palace (a twenty-yard screamer with his left boot). It was a good goal, and it gave us our first three points of the season.”

 

And, of course, it wouldn’t be right to talk to Redders without mentioning the infamous Liverpool clash. It’s easy to forget, in the bitterness and anger that still consumes many, and I include myself in that, that Redfearn scored twice that day. Once to put us ahead, and once from the spot. Many people thought that it knocked the stuffing out of the team, and they would have stood a good chance of staying up, had it not been for the actions of the Liverpool players, and more importantly, Gary Willard. But what are Redders’ thoughts on it?

“We battered Liverpool at home that day, and I remember thinking at the time that if we could have kept 11 men on the pitch that we would have won it easily. They struggled against eight of us.”

And so the season came and went, and defeat at Leicester City sent us tumbling out of the top flight, a high that we are yet to reach again. There was always going to be massive interest in Redfearn after his consistent lung-busting displays and goal threat, and while many believed that it was him that had got a taste for the top flight and wanted to continue playing at the highest level available to him, the truth has been lost in translation somewhere down the line…

“I wanted to stay at Barnsley and I never wanted to leave. I wasn’t on great money compared to some of the others in the squad at the time and had had a great season. Also, knowing that some of the foreign players were on a lot more than me but were nowhere near as influential as I was for the club stung. But, the club wanted the £1.25m so refused to give me a new contract. It was the hardest decision to leave Barnsley as I had planned to stay and maybe even be manager of the club one day.”

However Neil Redfearn’s Barnsley career ended, he will always be nothing short of a true legend at Oakwell. His goals, his work-rate in the middle of the park and his leadership mean that few people would ever question him being voted our finest ever player, and who knows, he’s putting the time in behind-the-scenes, getting coaching experience under his belt. Perhaps one day, Redders might just come back to Barnsley.

Here’s a short Q&A to finish things off.

Looking back, which is your favourite game in a Barnsley shirt?

“The FA Cup win over Manchester United. I didn’t score, but I made both of Scott Jones’ goals, and had waited all season long to get them back for beating us 7-0 at Old Trafford.”

You have legendary status at Oakwell. Would you ever consider returning in some capacity?

“Yes, if the time was right and the right people were involved, definitely.”

Who was the best player that you played with in your time at the club?

“Darren Sheridan. He was my mate in midfield, and it was him that used to watch my back, letting me get forward to score. He was also very, very talented. He was completely under-rated and an immense player.”

And against?

“Gianfranco Zola for Chelsea. He was an exquisite footballer and a true gentleman, too. I have also had the pleasure of completing my pro licence alongside him.”

And finally, have you always wanted to go in to coaching? How are you finding it? Do you have plans to give management another shot?

“Yes, I am really enjoying it, and have always looked to get in to it. I take the reserves and the U18 sides at Leeds United, and it is a big club with great facilities. I do feel far better equipped for management now, and although I’m in no major rush to get back in to it, it’s something that I’d definitely consider for the future.”

My thanks go to Neil for taking his time out to answer my questions, as well as the very helpful Lucy Ward at Leeds United.

Riding a wave of optimism – proceed with caution

As Barnsley fans, we are conditioned to never expect too much. As Keith probably rightly labelled us only recently, we are ‘little old Barnsley’, but at times, it is difficult not to get carried away.

Saturday evening was one of those times.

Those of us lucky enough to be at the 1999/2000 playoff semi final at St Andrews are unlikely to ever forget that clash. I specifically remember my mum claiming that she would be happy with a draw, and not overly upset if we left one goal down. That was of course before Bruce Dyer and Neil Shipperley shattered the dreams of many a brummie.

Saturday’s result brought back memories of that fantastic night. We were strong across the field, inventive and created enough good chances to have scored 10 goals on another day. If Jack Butland didn’t win his personal battle with Chris Dagnall (the only battle that any Birmingham won over a Barnsley counterpart in the entire encounter) then it really could have been far more embarrassing for Lee Clark’s team.

That leaves the club riding high on a wave of overwhelming optimism. All of the hard work that Keith Hill and David Flitcroft have done since moving to Barnsley. Once we have a full-strength squad, we have competition for each position across the park, and Hill will find himself, against Ipswich and Peterborough, with the ‘nice’ kind of selection headache when players coming back will be battling to get into a team that won its last match 5-0.

For example, David Perkins has been a revelation since signing for Barnsley. His hard-working performances in midfield, combined with an eye for a pass that he has demonstrated this season, have made him a real fan favourite at Oakwell. But, Steven Dawson was superb at Blackburn, harrying the opposition and winning tackles all day long, as well as finding himself in an advanced position on a number of occasions. So who plays against Ipswich when both are fit?

The same can be asked of Jim McNulty, Jim O’Brien, Matt Done, Toni Silva, John Stones, Luke Steele, and, of course, Mido – who is aiming to be back in training by next week.

 

Which leads us on to the weekend’s game against Ipswich (and more) – prompting the title of this article.

 

It was December 10th last season when we played Ipswich at home. We were flying, thanks to four victories in a row in the league, including winning away at Elland Road, and a stunning encounter at Peterborough, when an under-pressure Paul Jewell brought his Tractor Boys to Oakwell. Rumours before the game were that the Ipswich boss would lose his job if we picked up three points… but we all know what happened next.

 

Skip forward nine and a half months, and things are looking strangely familiar. Ipswich are struggling at the bottom of the division, with only Peterborough, who are yet to win a single point, below them in the league. Jewell was forced to come out only yesterday to state that he won’t walk out on his job, and we are riding high, encouraged by two excellent performances in a row.

 

Will it be a case of history repeating itself? It would be unwise as Barnsley fans to completely write-off the idea, as we’ve been in situations like this in the past, however you feel that the squad that Hillcroft have put together, as well as the extra time that they have had at the club mean that we should be confident enough of picking up three points this weekend.

 

With the afore-mentioned Peterborough next up, six points from our next two games is a realistic proposition. And that is a statement that I will use sparingly this season.

 

Although we suffered demoralising defeats away to Wolves and Brighton, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Barnsley have played almost exclusively teams from the top half of the division so far, and we are sitting reasonably pretty in 12th place, ahead of the weekend’s fixtures.

 

If we can use the Blackburn game as a catalyst to build some serious momentum, and keep Craig Davies on form, then there is no reason that we shouldn’t be able to build up some steam and launch ourselves into the next two encounters.

These are exciting times to be a Barnsley fan, our win at St Andrew’s launched us back into the eyes of the media. Let’s hope that they are still talking about us in a few weeks’ time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apologies from Barney’s Left Peg

Hi readers,

I’d just like to apologise for a lack of productivity on the site. Unfortunately, with the site only being me, and in my spare time, a broken laptop has put me out of action for the foreseeable.

If I could also extend this to The Seagull Love Review, who kindly previewed our game on Saturday, but I had no way to get the post out to people, so unfortunately it had to go to waste…

I’m working on a solution as we speak (although a two-week holiday is just around the corner) – but will try to compensate with some top-notch pieces before then.

Thanks for being understanding (I realise that you probably hadn’t even noticed I had been gone) – and I hope to be able to bring you a great read soon.

What we’re up against – Meeting Wolves

The Tykes are back in action tonight following the opening day’s victory over Middlesbrough, and what an excellent victory it was.

Few would have predicted (including myself) that we would make it all look so easy against one of the teams expected to be pushing for promotion at the end of the season.

But can we follow it up tonight, and win two games in a row at the beginning of the season for the first time since the 1996/96 season? We all know what happened that time around… Unfancied club makes a surprise start to the season, and, well… I’m getting well ahead of myself.

Next up is a trip to Molineux, and newly relegated Wolverhampton Wanderers, under the stewardship of the relatively unknown Stale Solbakken. I got in touch with Louie Silvani from the site www.wolvesviews.com to see what we can expect tonight in the Midlands.

 

Dan: Hi Louis, would you like to introduce yourself?

 

Louis: “Hey, I’m Louie, a 17-year-old Wolves fan from London. I’ve lived here all my life, and in that time I can assure you I’ve taken a lot of abuse for being a Wolves fan! I live and breath football, and play on a football course for a Watford Centre of Excellence side.”

We all saw how Wolves did last season… Just what what went wrong?

“What didn’t?

Well, after a brilliant start (top after three games!) it became clear that we still couldn’t defend, Mick (McCarthy) couldn’t get his head round the idea of playing 4-4-2 effectively, and we still struggled to keep possession of the ball. Bad turned to worse, then got a bit better with the introduction of Frimpong and Kightly. But then Frimpong broke, and everything fell apart.”

Your new manager’s appointment took a lot of people by surprise, what are your thoughts on him?

“It took us all by surprise! It was nice to see us not just go for a familiar face (ie. Warnock, Bruce, Curbishley) and actually take a risk. For all we know, it could turn out to be a disaster – but it’s a risk we’ve taken and if it works we will see the benefits. Stale cames across as intelligent, and has really impressed me with everything he’s said so far.”

What is the goal for this season? Automatic promotion? Playoffs? Consolidation?

“Personally, I just see this as a season of transition, and if the signs were there that we were forming a decent side and playing with style a top half finish wouldn’t bother me so much. However, there are some that demand promotion as we have a decent squad (a lot of the Championship winners from 08/09 are still here) and missing out on the play offs will frustrate many.”

And where do you realistically think that you will finish?

“It depends. If they players adapt quickly and get their heads around what the manager wants, then top six is obviously a possibility. If not (and it wouldn’t surprise me) I can see us floating around mid-table and possibly having a late surge towards the end of the season…”

You got off to a bad start on the opening day at Leeds… What went wrong?

“Well, aside from Ikeme and the new signings, pretty much everyone had a poor or awful game. The defence was abysmal, constantly disjointed and out of position. We struggled for composure in midfield and lacked creativity, though at times as a team we did look more comfortable on the ball. You could also put a lot down to some players still suffering a hangover from last season, which was clear for all to see.”

Who have you brought in before the season started? Who should we be keeping an eye out for?

“We’ve signed Frank Nouble (free), Bjorn Bergmann Sigurdarson (£2.5m) and Tongo Doumbia and Slawomir Peszko (loans). The latter three featured in the game on Saturday, and were the few positives out of the game.

Tongo is a beast, a box-to-box midfielder, but very comfortable on the ball. He likes a tackle and makes good runs forward beyond the defenders.

Peszko came on at half time, and while he wasn’t 100% match fit there were signs that he is going to be a good player for us.

Siguardarson is the one I look forward to seeing most. He’s only young, but has the attributes to be a very good player. Tall, strong, quick, skilful, he scored plenty of goals for Lillestrom before joining us.”

Looking at the game itself, is there a certain part of the field that you think you can trouble us on? A certain player who is going to give us nightmares?

“It’s hard to tell exactly what our line up will be, but if Matt Jarvis is playing he will always cause problems. He’s been linked with a move away to several clubs but we’ve yet to have an acceptable offer. He has given the best right backs in the country problems and he’ll do it in this league. If we have a lot of possession, Doumbia’s ability to break through may give us something different that we badly need.”

And, in the same line of questioning, do we have anyone that you’re not looking forward to coming up against? Or do you have any weak links we might exploit?

“Craig Davies is bound to score. He’s not the most talented, but I liked him in his spell with us. He worked his socks off! He did quite well for you guys last year and any ex-player that comes to Molineux has a chance of scoring, especially against our defence. Our full backs is where you will probably target, especially Zubar. He is constantly out of position, offers very little going forward and is easy to beat. Stephen Ward wasn’t much better on Saturday either.”

And finally, can I get a prediction from you?

“Well, we won’t keep a clean sheet so I’ll go for 2-1 to us. Davies opener for you guys, Doumbia and Ebanks-Blake for us. Best of luck for the season, apart from when we come to Oakwell (which I’m sure Wolves fans will enjoy visiting!)”

 

My thanks go to Louis for taking his time to help me out with this. If you are ever in need of a Wolves site, then get over to his, it’s cracking. You can also follow him on Twitter – @louiesilvani

And that’s me… Enjoy the game tonight, I’ll be listening intently, desperate for three more points… Up the Reds!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What we’re up against – Meeting the ‘Boro

So, the season is merely hours away… Time to throw on the shirt, get down town for a bit of Dutch courage and make that short walk up to Oakwell. You lucky basta…….

So, what better way to prepare for the big start than by getting the lowdown on tomorrow’s opponents by talking to a ‘Boro fan?

Steve Welsh runs the site miniboro.com, where you can find some stunning football artwork. I seriously recommend taking a look, there is some excellent stuff on there, and if my missus didn’t rule the roost in our house, then my walls would be covered in his work.

But, we’re here to talk football… I spoke to Steve about what’s going on at the Riverside, tomorrow’s game, and more…

Dan: Hi Steve, would you like to introduce yourself, and tell people about your work?

Steve: “Cheers Dan, I run a site called http://miniboro.com - taking a left-field view of the beautiful game though my posters and illustrations. I also feature interviews with ex-Boro players, together with an archive of Middlesbrough fanzine Fly Me To The Moon.”

There have been a lot of ins and outs at Boro this summer… Has Mowbray finally made it his squad, rather than Strachan’s?

“We’re certainly getting there, although there’s still a few skeletons left in the closet (Thomson, McManus etc). The current squad is more balanced now with a bit more width, so hopefully it should better suit the systems Mowbray wants to play. It will be interesting to see how much of an improvement we make, at home particularly, because our away form was so good last season.”

Who would you say has been the best addition?

“I’m not really sure yet as a lot of them are unknown quantities, but Jonathan Woodgate’s arrival was like a marquee signing of old. Time will tell if that gamble pays off, but I wouldn’t rule out some of our youngsters breaking through and maybe becoming our most valuable players.”

And is there anyone that you were sad to see go?

“Barry Robson has been a loss, although it’s not the end of the world. He was a very honest and committed player, the kind of guy we could have done with a few seasons earlier to be fair. That said, he wasn’t getting any younger, so good luck to him in the US. He came to the club, put a shift in every week and then left with very little fuss so I can’t fault him really. I was also saddened to see Tony McMahon leave the club; he was the captain of our 2003-04 FA Youth Cup winning side, which also contained the likes of Adam Johnson and James Morrison, so it was a shame to see another of that group move on.”

Jonathan Woodgate is a HUGE-profile signing for the club. Is it a stroke of genius, or are you worried that he’ll be spending most of his time with your physio?

“It was a gamble that was always going to be worth taking in my opinion, people forget that the same questions were raised when we signed him from Real Madrid in 2006, but we ended up selling him for £7million which tells you how well he played for us. Its just going to be a case of crossing our fingers and hoping he makes it through ‘most’ of the season, to be fair though, when he is fit he will have most of this divisions strikers in his back pocket.”

How do you rate Boro’s chances this season? Do the fans expect to be battling at the top of the league, or is this a season of building to challenge soon?

“I have us down for fourth this year, in fact im uncharacteristically confident about how things might pan out. We wont walk the league, but I do expect us to play some pretty decent stuff along the way. Certain sections of the crowd are a bit more pessemistic, but sod ‘em.”

What are your impressions of Barnsley? Has anything Tykes-related caught your eye this summer?

“Obviously the signing of Mido raised an eyebrow or two or Teesside. I’m afraid to say that no good will come of that transfer. Its a bit like when a close friend is going out with a bit of a slapper, you want to warn them, protect them from themselves etc, but they simply wont believe you till they find out for themselves. I would love to see an end of term Mido report if you’d be up for doing that? I’m sure a lot of Boro fans would enjoy reading it too.

In general terms though I always look forward to an away day at Barnsely, it’s a proper ground and we’ve had some great wins there in the past, plus there is the Hendrie / Wilko / Hignett connections too, so im definitely looking forward to another trip this Saturday.”

In regards to the match, who should Barnsley be worried about facing? Who is going to cause us problems?

“If he’s given a place in the starting XI you may find it hard to contain Adam Reach, he’s had a storming pre-season and been among the goals too, so dont say i didn’t warn you.”

And do we have any players that you don’t fancy coming up against?

“I’ll be honest, before his injury, I had Mido nailed on for a hat-trick, especially as he loves to flatter to decieve early on when he joins a new club.

And finally, can I trouble you for a prediction?

“Im going to say 3-1 to us, kiss of death there like.”

 

Thanks go to Steve for taking the time to talk to me. Honestly, go check his site now, it’s great.

There will be more build-up here before the game, so be sure to check back soon.

 

“Everyone could see that it was a blatant penalty” – A chat with Andy Liddell: Part two

Welcome back to my chat with Andy Liddell. Yesterday’s post, which you can access by clicking here, discussed the Bradford City game, what it was like at the start of the Premier League season, and how he had actually requested to leave the club during that summer.

Part two of our interview gets in to the cup run, that infamous game against Liverpool, and Danny Wilson’s decision to leave the club, as well as a little about Barnsley in modern times.

Enough of me wittering on though, you aren’t here to read this, you’re here to hear from our former star, ladies and gentlemen, Andy Liddell.

Dan: As the promotion squad was such a tight-knit bunch, and it was really a team, rather than star individuals, in your eyes, do you think Danny should have spent the money on English players that might have fit in better?

Andy: “I think Danny would probably say yes to this question himself, but hindsight is a wonderful thing, especially in football. It’s very difficult being a football manager, and Danny probably looked all over England, but the thing about shopping at home is you get quoted ridiculous prices, and then when you look abroad you can pick up international players for less money. The thing is, none of the players that we brought in were mugs, they were all international players, but it’s a culture shock for them. Adapting to the pace of the football is hard enough, never mind having to integrate into a new country, and a team where everyone knows each other well. They didn’t really work out as successfully as they would have hoped, or as Danny and Eric would have wanted, but I wouldn’t blame them for that, it’s just a matter of circumstances.

Yes Ashley and Darren came and did really well, but they knew the English league. The foreign lads were coming in to a league that they had no experience with, and they were used to international football which was, and still is, a lot different than the Premier League. The game’s much faster in England than it is internationally, and they just weren’t ready for it. They needed a period to acclimatise, but you don’t get that in football, especially not under the cameras of the Premier League. You’re judged on instant results and instant performances, which was unfortunate for them. They were all nice lads, they tried to integrate, but some struggled with the language, and Georgi put his foot right in it, but it was difficult for them.

To answer your question though, no, probably not. He probably tried to bring in English lads, but the prices will have been over the top. I know that Darren and Ashley both came in at reasonable prices, but that’s probably a case of it being two out of two hundred that he tried to bring in. Being on the other side of the game now, I see how hard managers work to sign players, and it can be really frustrating for them, and I’m sure that Danny became frustrated with the English transfer market and felt that he had to go abroad to get any kind of value for money.

The incident that stands out featuring yourself during that season is Gary Neville’s ‘tackle’ at Old Trafford. What do you remember about that day?
“The cup game? Everyone could see that it was a blatant penalty. Gary Neville knew it was too, as when we jogged back to the halfway like I said to him: ‘You know as well as I do that was a penalty, I don’t believe that hasn’t been given’, and he just laughed and said: ‘What can I do? It hasn’t been given, so there’s not a lot of choice. I tried to get the ball, got you, and got away with it.’ That’s just how it goes. Even Alex Ferguson admitted that the referee had made a mistake, and I think it did get blown all out of proportion, with people talking about it in Parliament and such, but justice was done in the end. It was just a football incident, admittedly quite a big one, but that’s always the case with Manchester United. Everything gets blown up bigger than it is.

Justice was done with us knocking them out in the replay, and we deserved to, but if the penalty had been given, Redders would have probably slotted it away, because he didn’t miss many, and we’d have done it on the day. Saying that, I’m sure some fans are happy that we didn’t get it as they all got to see us knock them out of the cup at home instead, which was far better surely?”

Did you think at any point that it could have been our year in the cup?
“Yeah, I did actually. We’d knocked some good teams out and built up a bit of momentum. I’m sure nobody fancied playing us and we gave Newcastle a really good game, but if the referee had done his job properly, we would have probably finished a bit closer than we actually did to them, that was another occasion where an official made a cock up. I did think that it could have been us though. We’d built up some steam, knocked out good teams, but it wasn’t to be. That’s still the furthest that I ever got in the FA Cup, and it was a really good, enjoyable run.”

While we’re talking about referees again, I realise that you didn’t come on until the second half, but what are your memories of the Liverpool game at Oakwell (and Gary Willard)?

“That day… It was the first time I’d ever seen anything like that on a football pitch, and I’ve never seen it since. The referee just walking off the field because the atmosphere was intimidating, I thought that’s what fans and players were meant to try and create at a home ground. It was just bizarre, the whole day was bizarre. He was sending players off willy nilly, for nothing really, well, apart from Darren (Sheridan), he did punch someone in the face so he was always going, but the others were rubbish decisions.

It was bizarre. The noise was incredible, and we’d pulled it back to 2-2 with nine men and we had a chance, if I remember rightly, to draw level again at the end. If we’d done that with nine men, it would have been the result of the season.

But, again, it was bizarre. I remember the referee walking off the pitch, looking over at him and thinking: ‘where’s he going?’ I’ve never seen anything like it since.

It was a great game to play in, don’t get me wrong, it was end to end and there was incident after incident, and it was probably a great game to watch, but what the referee was doing or thinking on that day, only he could tell you. I know the fans were raging about it, and there were conspiracy theories and such flying around, but I genuinely just feel that he wasn’t up to doing his job, and afterwards, when you sit down in the cold light of day, you fell a little bit of sympathy for him. His mental state, to do what he did that day, must have been pretty fragile, and he crumbled underneath it. Different people, players and officials, have different levels of mental strength, and he obviously couldn’t cope with what was happening.”

Some Barnsley fans have suggested that defeat to Liverpool really knocked the stuffing out of us, and if we hadn’t of lost in the manner that we did, we may have got more points out of the final part of the season and stayed up. Would you agree?

“No, I don’t think it knocked the stuffing out of the players. Listen, we finished where we finished because that’s what we deserved. As a group we just weren’t strong enough to stay in the Premier League. We had some players that could cope with that division, and we had some that didn’t, and there’s no disgrace in that. We had a lot of players that were excellent in the division below, a lot, but we got into the top flight and as a group we just couldn’t handle it. Things like the Liverpool game didn’t help, of course they didn’t, but I wouldn’t say that it was when we all thought ‘oh god, what’s happened to us? We’re going down…’ It wasn’t that at all, we all still tried our hardest, but at the end of the day we just weren’t quite good enough. That’s not a crime, it’s just a fact.”

After we went down, what was your reaction to Danny Wilson leaving? Were the players shocked, or did you have an idea about what might be happening?

“I was totally shocked, I had no idea. We had all come back from the close season, a couple of players had left, a couple had signed, and it really came as a shock.

The pull of Sheffield Wednesday for him was quite big, and you can see why, but it didn’t really work out for him as he would have liked. Obviously, the fans were in uproar about it, but speaking for myself, I had no idea that it was going to happen.

He did what he did, and then John took over, but no, I had no idea that he was going to do that.”

Was John a popular choice among the players? How did you react to his appointment?
“That was an even bigger shock! John had no experience of being a manager and he’d no experience coaching… Obviously he was a popular figure among the fans, and the players liked him, but it came as a real surprise.

Unfortunately, as the job went on, I felt a bit sorry for John. I’ve never had a conversation with him about it, but it looked like he wasn’t enjoying himself. Obviously, there is a lot of pressure on managers, and having been thrown in at the deep end somewhat, I did feel sorry for him. He’d been put in the situation, but to be fair if they’d asked any of the senior players if they wanted to take over they would have probably jumped on it, as we had a good team, and it was a good club, we had the parachute payments and a few quid in the bank, but it just seemed to be put on him and, well he lost his job in the end, but the pressure seemed to get to him…

It was a big surprise though, yeah. I’ll always remember it, we were sat in the stadium and the chairman said to us: “Here’s the new manager…” And in walked John, and we all just sat around going, ‘Okay, where… That’s John…’

I think any of the players will tell you the same, it was a huge shock.”

If you could look back on the season as a whole, and change one thing about it, what would it be?

“From a purely selfish perspective, it would be that I started more games. I think I started maybe 15 or 16, and I got to go to some magnificent stadiums to play some top teams, but I’d loved to have started more.

From a group point of view, that we’d stayed up. You stay up that first year, the club builds, you can attract better players, the ones that you have improve… Just staying up in the best league in the world would have been invaluable.”

Of all the players that you played alongside up front for Barnsley, who did you think you struck up the best partnership with?

“I really liked playing alongside Ashley when I had the opportunity, because he was a really great player and worked really hard for the team. He suited my game when we played together. He held the ball up really well, and knocked a lot of balls on for me to run on to. So I would say it would be Ashley. He really was a Premier League player was Ashley. You can see that throughout his career, and he was a fantastic signing for Danny.

I really enjoyed playing with Paul Wilkinson too, we had a good partnership going, and I scored a lot of goals while I was up top with Paul, but I’d probably just say Ashley. When you look at his career, he played most of it in the top flight, he went for a lot of money, and scored a lot of goals, so it would have to be him.”

Do you think that, with the way that football is changing, a team like Barnsley could ever make it back to the top flight?

“I’d never say never to anything in football, as I’ve seen some things that would make your eyes curl, so I wouldn’t say no, but it would be as big an achievement as us getting promoted back then.

The budget that Barnsley have got compared to the rest of the Championship is miniscule, but they’ve got a fantastic young manager there in Keith, with some good young players in there, but, at the moment, with the finances available, staying in the Championship is a massive achievement. They’re battling against teams that are spending millions on players, and paying them wages that you wouldn’t believe, so to do it again would be incredible. Unless, of course, some big money man comes in, spends a fortune and buys the success.

I’d never say never, but it would be very difficult for them to get out of this league.”

And, finally, if the chance even arose, would you go back to Barnsley, in one capacity or the other?

“I’d love to roll back the years and go back to play for them, yeah. The job I have now is great, and I’m really enjoying it, but no-one can predict the future, so you never know. Especially in this business, people lose their jobs for nothing and it’s crackers really. You’ve got to be a certain kind of character to survive in it, but I would never say never, but more than anything I’d like to take the time back and go back to play for them.”

And with that, all I can do is thank Andy for taking the time to talk to me, and for everything that he did in his time at Barnsley. I’m sure each and every Barnsley fan wishes him all the best in his future career, and if you want to keep up to date with what he’s doing, go follow him on Twitter – @Lidds7.

Be sure to check back to the blog soon, there are more interviews on the way, as well as build up to the Middlesbrough game, including a chat with one of our former heroes, who happened to play for them too…

“I would have really liked to have played more” – A chat with Andy Liddell: Part one

After chats with Darren Barnard and Nicky Eaden, I tracked down another star from the promotion and Premier League campaigns to discuss his time at the club.

Andy Liddell came through the ranks at Barnsley, making his debut for the club against Portsmouth way back in 1992, the first of 198 appearances for the Tykes. Undoubtedly a popular figure among the fans (and even more-so with my mum), Andy will go down in Tykes history as one of our finest.

I spoke to him about our time in the top flight, the Bradford City match, and everything that happened once we had finally lost our battle to stay in the top flight. Thanks to the quality of the interview that Andy provided, I’m going to split this into two parts again, with the second coming tomorrow, so be sure to come back for that, but, for now, here’s me and Andy..

Dan: Hi Andy, thanks for talking to me. Let’s start with the one that no-one will ever forget. The Bradford City game, what are your memories of that day, and how did it feel to be a part of it all?

Andy: “If I remember rightly, I don’t think I’d actually played the couple of games before it, so I probably thought that I wouldn’t actually be playing in it. As soon as John (Hendrie) arrived from Middlesbrough, he kind of took my place in the team. I was playing up front with Paul (Wilkinson) and I was a bit put out about that. I had started the season well, and was scoring quite a few goals, but the signing meant that I was in and out of the team a lot. I did feature in a lot of the games, but didn’t start as many as I wanted to, so on that day, I was quite surprised to be starting.

I just remember the atmosphere really, I’m pretty sure that it was absolutely chucking it down, and Bradford needed points to stay up, so it was a big game for them too. I remember us scoring, when Wilko put us in front, then it was just a really tight match. From what I can remember, Bradford then went down the left and their lad ended up missing one of the easiest chances you’ll ever see in your life and he hit the post with an open goal. It was one of those chances that an idiot could have put in the net – no offence – but he somehow contrived to miss, and I thought to myself: ‘that’s it, we’re not going to lose this game’. I think Clint came on for me then, but I definitely wasn’t on the pitch when we got our second. I just knew, as soon as their lad hit the post, that was it.

The atmosphere is what will stay with me, and the euphoria of the fans sprinting on to the pitch, it was electric, and it’s a game that I’ll always remember.”

Approaching the new season, going into the top flight for the first time in our history, did you think that we had what it took to compete?

“I didn’t know, I’d no idea to be honest. A lot of us were going in to the unknown, and none of us were established Premier League players. We had a couple of players that had played there, but none of us younger ones that had come through at Barnsley had experienced it before, so we had no idea if we were going to be good enough to stay up or not. I knew that we had some decent players, and that we’d added players too, but until you’re actually in there among the big boys then you never know. Ultimately, it was proven that we weren’t actually good enough, but at the start of the season, I couldn’t have told you how we would have done. The players you’re coming up against in that league are fantastic, especially the top four or five teams, and we didn’t disgrace ourselves, but you can only hope that you’re good enough to match them.”

And what was the atmosphere like in the dressing room ahead of the West Ham game?

“It was the same as what had been happening in the town all summer I think, we were excited. All summer, everyone in Barnsley had been talking about the start of the new season, and I lived in the town, so didn’t miss out on any of that, and the players were too. When you start pre-season, the first game always seems a long way away, but I remember that it actually came around pretty quickly. One of the pre-season games we played was against the Brazilian team Santos at Oakwell, and we got a right hammering. We were all thinking: ‘Oh my god, if they’re all like this, we’re going to get battered every week’.

The West Ham game was all about atmosphere too. It was a red-hot day. I don’t think I started, I was on the bench, but we scored first and it was like a carnival in the ground, like there was a huge party going on. Obviously we got beat in the end, but it was still like a huge party that day.”

Out of the season as whole, which matches do you look back on most fondly?

“From the team point of view, it would have to be the game that we won at Anfield. To go to a place like that, to play a team like that, and to beat them one-nil was fantastic, and the atmosphere in the changing room after that was absolutely brilliant. Obviously, no-one had given us a prayer because we’d had a few hammerings and were going to play one of the biggest teams in Europe, but although we were under the cosh for a lot of the game, we actually played alright and played some decent football. The goal might have come because of a mistake, but that’s the game, from the team point of view, that I’ll remember, purely because of the result and who it was.”

I must admit that I missed the goal on that day as I was too busy appealing for a penalty. Did you think that you were fouled by David James?

“The thing is, he actually touched the ball. A few of us that had come through the youth team and had been coached by Eric (Winstanley) had always been taught that if it’s a penalty, it’s a penalty, but if you have a chance to get up and get the ball, then jump up and get it. That was the reason that I didn’t stay down. You know, I wasn’t a diver, I wasn’t a cheating sort of player, so after he touched the ball I thought: ‘He’s got a touch on that, the ref might not give it’. My reactions told me to get up and cross it, and then they made a cock-up and Ashley stuck it in the net. If it was now, they’d probably give a penalty for it, you get one if someone breathes on you these days, but in that game James touched the ball so I just wanted to get up. It wasn’t a very good cross at all, but it turned out to be when it mattered.”

And which do you think was your best performance?

“The best game that I personally had was the Leeds United game at home, ironically, as I’m a big Leeds fan. I was looking forward to that game as soon as the fixtures came out. We got beat 3-2, but that was a great game for me. I scored, I had one cleared off the line and I just played really well in that game. It was an added bonus that it was against my boyhood team, the team that I supported, and I’ve got a lot of family and friends who are also Leeds fans, and I used to go and watch them as a kid, so that made it double special for me.”

Because you were such an important part of the promotion team, and as you said, were disappointed when John signed, were you then unhappy not to play more games in the Premier League?

“I was yeah, and I actually handed a transfer request in during the summer. When we got promoted, I handed a request in to Danny because I could see what was coming. I wasn’t the most experienced at the time, but I knew that we’d signed John, and it was clear that more players would be coming too. I had confidence in my own ability that I had what it took to be in the team, but any promoted side will sign players, and I thought: ‘I’m not going to get a game here’. I knew there would be other teams interested in me, as I was a decent player and I’d just been involved in the promotion team, which looks good on your CV. I was confident that I could find another team, while also being disappointed. If I was playing for Barnsley, and thought I’d be getting games, then I wouldn’t have ever wanted to leave. But I wasn’t, so I handed in the request, but Danny turned it down and said “No, you’re staying, we want to offer you a new contract.”

Now, I got offered a new contract, but it was loads and loads less than any of the other players that had been offered new deals, and that kind of told me a story, really. I was and am still big mates with Nicky Eaden, and he’d been offered one too. He’d told me what he’d got before I went to see Danny, so I was kind of expecting to get the same but, no, mine was no-where near it, not even half. So, obviously, I got the hump and thought – the club are saying they want to keep me, but at the end of the day, money is money, and you want to be earning the same as players that are of a similar stature to yourself. I can’t lie, I was really annoyed about that, and with the new players coming in too, but what can you do? My transfer request had been turned down, so I just had to get my head down and get on with it. Although it did feel to me that the other players had been rewarded for helping the club get promotion, but I hadn’t really. It didn’t seem fair to me, and I told the club what I felt, but it wasn’t a case of me throwing my toys out of the pram, like I said, I just got on with it.

With the new players coming in I kind of read the script that I wasn’t going to be playing much, on top of the contract offer that I had no real choice but to sign, but I would have really liked to have played more.”

I hope you enjoyed part one of the chat. Be sure to come back tomorrow for part two, including Gary Neville’s ‘tackle’, Liverpool at home, Danny Wilson leaving, and more…

“I’d helped my hometown club to make history” – A chat with Nicky Eaden

Hello again readers, and welcome back to Barney’s Left Peg. After the behemoth that was my Darren Barnard interview last week, I’m back with another chat with a star of the past.

Football fans, almost universally, enjoy seeing ‘one of their own’ make it into the first team. Players who have been through the academy and go on to become a star at the club. Nicky Eaden was one of those stars. Joining the club in 1992, he went on to play almost 300 games before leaving for Birmingham City in 2000.

As popular right back/wing back as we’ve arguably ever had, it was my pleasure to catch up with Nicky to talk about his time at the club, our time in the Premier League, and more.

Dan: Hi Nicky, thanks very much for speaking to me. No Barnsley fan will ever forget the Barnsley v Bradford match at Oakwell. What are your memories of that day? And how did it feel to be a part of the team that took us in to the top flight for the first time in our history?

Nicky: “The Bradford game was fantastic. I remember before the game that the dressing room was slightly quieter than normal, but the lads were trying their best to be normal. “It was just another game” was said a few times.I knew we had another game after at Oxford but I think everyone just wanted to get promotion sorted, especially in front of a near full house at Oakwell. The lads had such a belief and trust in one another that I guess we sort of knew that we’d do it. We had some really experienced players, mixed with younger ones like me. Wilko, Hendo, Redders, Shirty,  Thommo, they were the old heads that helped us through.

Wilko’s goal settled us down a little bit but I remember their lad hitting the post when it was easier to score and thought, ‘this is our day!’

I’ve seen highlights since and it shows me hitting the post, although I have no recollection of that! I would have given anything to have scored the goal that took us up, but instead that honour went to Clint Marcelle. That produced mixed emotions in me, as I would have liked to have seen one of the other lads like Redders do it.

That season came as close to perfection for me as possible, as I played every game that season and it culminated in us being promoted. I remember the relief at the final whistle, which was followed quickly by a feeling I can best describe as the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end multiplied by 100 and lasting for ages.

I remember seeing lads that I went to school with running onto the pitch and then being mobbed. I lost my boots, pads , socks and shorts but held onto my shirt, as I knew that was the only one I’d got.

After getting off the pitch, we made our way to the dressing room where the celebrations started. Loads of champers and beer was flying everywhere, and there was lots of back slapping and hand shaking.

I made sure that I made a point of thanking Danny and Eric, too.  I’d been coached by Eric for around six or seven years, and I had an enormous amount of respect for him and Danny.

I really felt a massive sense of pride that day as I’d helped my hometown club to make history, and it was especially good joining up with my family straight after the game.”

Nicky, at the back, keeping his pants out of view, unlike the others.

How confident were you, going in to the Premier League season, that we had what it would take to stay up?

“Going into the following season, I wasn’t hugely confident to be honest, as the signings we had made were unknown quantities, and I wasn’t sure how the lads who’d never played at Premier League level would survive, most notably myself.

Relegation kind of hung over us all season, and even though we gave ourselves a great chance by winning three games in a week against Wimbledon, Aston Villa and Southampton at one point, there were other times when it felt like it was a matter of time.

I personally didn’t have too many really good performances that season, every game in the Premier League really tested me, and I felt as if I had to play out of my skin every week just to survive.”

Given the success of players like Darren Barnard and Ashley Ward, do you think that the money that we spend on foreign players such as Georgi Hristov and Alez Krizan would have been better invested in home-based stars?

“The foreign lads proved to be a waste of money in the Premier League season, especially the two that you have mentioned, Hristov and Krizan. Wardy and Barny were straight replacements for Wilko and Thommo, and I don’t think it needed much more as they slotted in really well. There was a bit of resentment from some of the lads towards the foreign players, as we didn’t see them as an improvement on what we already had. Plus, Tinkler claimed that Barnsley was a stepping stone for him, and Hristov saying that Barnsley women were ugly was never going to go down well.”

What are your memories of West Ham at home, our first ever game in the top flight?

“Actually, I can’t really recall what the atmosphere was like too much before the West ham game, but I was determined to try and make an impact in the game as my Dad had died the week before.

I thought that when Redders scored we were coping just fine, but then Watto rashly came for a cross and that knocked the stuffing out of us a bit. You could say that game summed our season up really, as we competed and were good in spells, but ultimately just not good enough.”

Do you have a ‘favourite’ game from that season? And which game do you remember least fondly?

“I can’t really recall a favourite game, as we took quite a few beatings that season. Liverpool away was memorable for the result, and the fact that we were applauded off the pitch by the Liverpool fans. As everyone knows, it was a real backs to the wall performance.

My least favourite memory would have to be actually being relegated away at Leicester, and it was made worse by knowing that we still had to finish off against Man Utd at home.”

Everyone remembers the Liverpool home game, and the ‘refereeing’ that we had to put up with on that day. What are your memories of it?

“The Liverpool home game was very memorable, with three sendings off, five goals, and the fact that we played a 3-3-2 formation for a long period of the game.

We were still trying to create chances – and I remember playing Hristov through for a half chance, then losing the game late on.

Plus, I won’t forget my mate from school running on the pitch to confront the ref, then Shez swinging a punch at Ince, missing, and catching Jamie Redknapp, making him the third player to be sent off.

Refs definitely favoured the bigger teams during that season, and most of them were generally on first name terms with the ‘big’ players.”

Of course, when we were relegated, Danny Wilson left to Sheffield Wednesday, and John Hendrie was given the job. Was it a surprise for you when Danny went, and was John a popular choice?

“As soon as Sheffield Wednesday came for Danny, I thought that it was inevitable that he would leave, being that he was a former player of their. Plus, if we hadn’t gone straight back up after being relegated, there was a chance that he could have tarnished the memories that he made and possibly his reputation.

But I do think that we could have challenged for promotion again if Danny had stayed, there would have been continuity and that’s what we needed.

John was a surprising choice amongst the players as he had been one of the biggest dressing room jokers. To be honest, he changed too much, too quickly and tried to stamp his authority on the dressing room a little too much.”

Which was your favourite game for Barnsley over all?

“My two favourite games… Obviously the Bradford game will be up there, and the Sheffield United game at home on Sky in the promotion season, which I set up the first goal for Hendo then scored the second myself, earning me man of the match. My favourite goal that I scored was definitely against Sheffield United in the promotion season, too.”

And, finally, would you ever like to return to Barnsley in some capacity, one day?

“I would love to return to Barnsley in some role or another. There have been a succession of managers and coaches with no affinity with the club since I left, and I think they just see it as another job.”

My thanks go to Nicky for taking the time to discuss the past with me. You can keep up with him by following him on Twitter – @Eaden2. I wish him all the best with his career now, and hopefully, we’ll get to hear him on Barnsley Player again at some point this season.
Keep an eye on Barney’s Left Peg, as there are more interviews in the bank, waiting to hit the site, as well as build up to the opening game of the season at Rochdale to come.