My Team & I: Barnsley

By Dan Williams


Twitter: @daninfrance

Why Barnsley?

Being born in Barnsley, but moving to Huddersfield at the age of four, I only really had one choice to make. The Tykes or the Terriers? It is probably indicative of my personality that, because all of my friends were already big Huddersfield fans, I chose Barnsley.

Admittedly, I did have a little diversion into the Premier League, before I fully understood what I was doing, and spent a couple of years watching Liverpool as a very small boy, but once I had visited Oakwell and was at an age where I was becoming more and more aware that you should be proud of where you come from, the red of Barnsley eclipsed that of the seemingly more impressive Liverpool, and I was hooked.

I should explain at this point, should you be wondering, why I am part of Roker Report, as I’m declaring my love for Barnsley FC when I write for a Sunderland fansite… Like many before me, and I’m sure many after, I started to follow the team when I moved to the area for university. I’m not ashamed to say that I support Sunderland as passionately as any home-grown Mackem, despite being a Barnsley fan at heart. Fate has kept the teams apart for many a year now, whether it being Sunderland in the Premiership or Barnsley’s fun times in League One, so my loyalties haven’t been divided just yet, but before you ask, if the two teams met in a cup, I’d be in with the Barnsley fans.

I had many great years as a Barnsley season ticket holder, and followed the team everywhere they went in their solitary season in the top flight. It took some doing, I’ll give you that, it’s not easy to see your team being beaten 6-0 by West Ham, but they were awesome times nonetheless, and although living in France prevents me from getting more than the odd game each season now, the Tykes will always be special to me. As the club motto goes, ‘My team, my town, my blood‘.

Favourite Player?

Of the squad that we currently have at the club, there can only really be one winner, Bobby Hassell. Admittedly, when he signed from Mansfield back in 2004, I was less than impressed with the short, ginger defender that had joined my team. Thankfully, the Barnsley faithful gave him time to develop, and he has been a rock for the past four or five years, picking up Player of the Year, Fans’ Player of the Year and Disabled Supporters’ Player of the Year awards along the way. He is also the proud owner of a magnificent chant.

(To the tune of I Love You Baby)

“Oh Bobby Hassell,

You are the love of my life,

Oh Bobby Hassell,

I’ll let you s*ag my wife,

Oh Bobby Hassell,

I want ginger hair too.”

Overall, there are a number of players who immediately spring to mind. Neil Redfearn was a goal-scoring machine in our midfield, John Hendrie was a bag of tricks up front, but my choice has to be our former German-born, Welsh left-back Darren Barnard.

He signed for us from Bristol City during our Premiership season and was as good an attacking full-back that I’ve seen through my admittedly rose-tinted eyeballs. He was excellent from set pieces, and scored many a memorable free kick in his time at Oakwell. He also scored the best goal that I’ve ever seen live. I’ve popped a link below, take a look, if you would. Utter brilliance.

Favourite Game?

Again, a tough one to answer. I’ll do it in reverse order. Third would be Barnsley’s away win at Liverpool in 1997. Absolutely hammered for 92 minutes, Ashley Ward tucked in a winner and we came away with a smash and grab 1-0. Second, a 3-2 win over Manchester United in an FA Cup replay at Oakwell in the same season…

However, first would have to be Barnsley v Huddersfield, November 28, 1998. As I said earlier, I grew up as the only Barnsley fan in a circle of friends who all supported Town. Barnsley were managed by the afore-mentioned John Hendrie during his ill-fated spell as player-manager of the club, and unfortunately, things never really worked out for him. Apart from on that night.

On a bitterly cold night in South Yorkshire, the Tykes produced the finest 45 minutes of football that I’ve ever seen, and am likely to see again, in all my years of watching the beautiful game. It was one of those nights where every single thing that a team attempts comes good. Whether the planets aligned or whatever other things people say about nights like that, it was magnificent. Barnsley registered 16 shots in the first half alone, and led their local rivals 6-0 by half time. Two goals each for Bruce Dyer and debutant Craig Hignett did the damage, while Eric Tinkler, Ashley Ward, and the above goal from Barnard wrapped things up. The only downside to the night was Hignett missing a penalty which would have secured his hat-trick. Huddersfield’s fans actually tried to leave the game at half time, and when the stewards refused to open the turnstiles, they resorted to climbing over the walls of the ground to make their escape. The match finished 7-1, and bragging rights were firmly in my court for the foreseeable future.

Favourite Kit?

Strange enough, I’ve never been all that fond of Barnsley’s kits. We’ve had all kinds of odd sponsors over the years, including iSoft and Big Thing, and all have looked pretty crap, to be honest. Looking back, the only kit of ours that I’ve genuinely liked, and still wear 14 years later, is our away kit from the Premiership season.

Perhaps it is just me looking back on the whole season fondly, or it might have more to do with the fact that it had Barnard’s name on the back and his signature on the front, but I really was, and still am, genuinely fond of that shirt.

Worst thing about being a Barnsley fan?

That’s a tough one to answer really, which I imagine is a fairly common answer. We had some tough times in the League One years, and are always pretty crap in the League Cup, but in recent years we’ve been in playoff finals at Wembley (the last one there) and Cardiff, got to the FA Cup semi final after beating Chelsea and Liverpool along the way, and have been promoted in that time too. For all of our moaning, we’ve had a good few years of it really.

However, our fans aren’t always the most understanding of people, and during the Premiership season, we had a few run ins with the authorities. Liverpool at home comes to mind, when our supporters rushed the pitch, as well as throwing stones at their fans’ cars. Criticising your own is never a popular choice, but we haven’t always covered ourselves in glory over the years.

Funniest Moment?

Sitting in the stands for our return visit to Huddersfield in the same season that we trounced them was a fun game. A severely worse for wear Snow White took his seat next to me, with his seven (because of the score, but you know that) dwarves trailing behind him.

Unfortunately for Ms White, he (she) fell from standing off of his chair early on in the game, and I’m not sure he saw much after that.

Also always remember front row fans in our west stand winding up pint-sized club hero Clint Marcelle. Whenever he warmed up, the fans would shout ‘Clint, Clint’ until he turned around, before adding ‘Eastwood’ and looking elsewhere when he wandered over. It happened literally ten times in one game. It sounds stupid, but it was one of those things that just had us laughing like hell at the time.

Favourite Moment?

Other than the moments in my favourite games, meeting Jan Aage Fjortoft was a real joy, as he always made time for the fans and had a laugh with everyone that he talked to.

Also, singing ‘we’re going to win 7-6’ while 6-0 down to Chelsea and stepping it up a notch to ‘we’re going to win 8-7’ when getting utterly trounced at Old Trafford were always great fun. I might have had a go at our supporters earlier, but they were great fun during the Premiership season, and beyond, and it was an honour to be a part of it all.


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