MY GREEK TRAGEDY

Barns­ley’s Liam Lawrence is so glad to be back in Eng­land

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Jamie Holt

LIAM Lawrence has vowed to steer Barns­ley to Cham­pi­onship sur­vival af­ter the Tykes saved him from a Greek “night­mare”.

The 32-year-old swapped Portsmouth for PAOK in north­ern Greece in 2012 and took to life in the Mediter­ranean swim­mingly.

A sec­ond-place fin­ish in the Greek Su­per League and 27 ap­pear­ances rep­re­sented a suc­cess­ful first sea­son for Lawrence – but things turned sour af­ter a semi­fi­nal Cup de­feat to Asteras Tripoli.

Ger­man boss Gior­gos Do­nis, who favoured the for­mer Stoke and Sun­der­land mid­fielder, was sacked in the af­ter­math of that loss and from then on Lawrence found him­self largely on the bench or sat at home watch­ing English foot­ball high­lights.

Sacked

That was un­til Barns­ley, and old Mans­field team-mate Bobby Has­sell, pic­tured, came in for him last month – and Lawrence couldn’t be more relieved.

“I am re­ally glad to be back. It’s time I came back re­ally,” said Lawrence, who has signed un­til the end of the sea­son.

“I wasn’t play­ing for six months. It’s frus­trat­ing and it was turn­ing into a bit of a night­mare.

“The fans were re­ally good, but the man­ager got sacked af­ter we lost in the semi-fi­nal and ever since then it’s been tough.

“The new man­ager came in, the Dutch guy from Schalke, Huub Stevens, and things didn’t re­ally progress for me – I was mak­ing calls to my agent telling him to get some­thing sorted back in Eng­land as soon as pos­si­ble.

“I spoke to Barns­ley in the sum­mer ac­tu­ally. Noth­ing came of it, but I know Bobby Has­sell well and he told me it’s a good lit­tle club and they just need a cou­ple of play­ers like me to get out of trou­ble.

“He en­cour­aged me to come ini­tially in the sum­mer and I told him when things were pro­gress­ing.

“I just wanted to be back. I was watch­ing ev­ery­thing, I’d get in and wait for the English foot­ball to come on. I was miss­ing it.

“I used to watch the Foot­ball League Show ev­ery weekend and keep up to date with the foot­ball be­cause I had Sky.

“Greece is cer­tainly dif­fer­ent, es­pe­cially in terms of the weather, but the Greek win­ters get as cold as they do over here.

“It’s hard to adapt. Play­ing in 35de­gree heat, even at night, is tough on the body.

“It’s not as mod­ern as I’m used to over here. It was never for def­i­nite, I just tried to make it work as best I could but I’m buzzing to be back.”

The task at Oak­well is not go­ing to be easy, though. Barns­ley are em­broiled in a full-on rel­e­ga­tion scrap with new boss Danny Wil­son only just re­stored to the job that he first held from 1994 to 1998.

Top

Wil­son led the Tykes to the Pre­mier League for the 1997-98 sea­son – their one and only cam­paign in the top flight – and Lawrence has been im­pressed by what he has seen.

But the Repub­lic of Ire­land in­ter­na­tional could have been play­ing there with Cardiff had things turned out dif­fer­ently be­fore his move to Greece.

“I spoke to Malky Mackay that sum­mer and the signs were promis­ing,” said Lawrence, who spent the end of the 2011-12 sea­son on loan to the Blue­birds.

“I al­ways think about what might have been and whether I could be in the Pre­mier League now, but things went the other way. It didn’t work out and there’s no point dwelling on the past.

“From what I have seen of the lads in train­ing at Barns­ley, I’m sure we’ll be fine. There are only a few points in it, the league is so tight, it’s mad. The boss is ex­cel­lent, he’s re­ally en­thu­si­as­tic.

“If I stay fit and we stay up you never know, I may stay. But I’m just look­ing to get back up to speed first.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

MED FOR IT: Liam Lawrence, right, is glad to be back in Eng­land at Barns­ley af­ter be­ing frozen out at PAOK in Greece, inset

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