Leon Wob­schall

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - SPORT - ■ Email: leon.wob­schall@ypn.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @LeonWobYP

APRIL 26, 1997 ... re­mem­ber the day.

If you are a Barns­ley sup­porter, it is a date which is truly etched in Reds’ folk­lore.

A then sell-out Oak­well crowd of 18,605 saw Barns­ley af­ford them­selves par­adise af­ter beat­ing York­shire ri­vals Brad­ford City 2-0 to joy­ously book their place in the top flight for the first time in the club’s 109-year his­tory, with the 20th an­niver­sary of that un­for­get­table and in­tox­i­cat­ing spring af­ter­noon ar­riv­ing on Wed­nes­day.

The ac­cents may have been Map­plewell and Monk Bret­ton, but the song of the day – and in­deed the sea­son – harkened back to the Mara­cana. ‘It’s just like watch­ing Brazil.’

A car­ni­val at­mos­phere was fol­lowed by a car­ni­val per­for­mance as Danny Wilson’s re­doubtable, mag­nif­i­cent Reds – backed by the sup­port of count­less neu­trals across the land – se­cured their in­vite to the Premier­ship Promised Land, fit­tingly with a Moses in their ranks.

It would have pro­vided a far more hand­some vic­tory had it not been for the hero­ics of Bantams goal­keeper Ai­dan Davison, who stood tall to most things thrown in his di­rec­tion by Barns­ley, who pep­pered his goal.

Nicky Eaden also struck the post for the hosts. But two goals proved to be plenty in the end.

Ap­pro­pri­ately, in such a won­drous sea­son, Barns­ley did it in style with the scenes of cel­e­bra­tion which fol­lowed sub­sti­tute Clint Mar­celle’s 87thminute clincher in front of the Pon­te­fract Road end to make it 2-0 be­ing quite some­thing to be­hold.

Ear­lier, Paul Wilkin­son had set­tled the hosts’ nerves by head­ing in a 21st-minute opener fol­low­ing a cross from John Hen­drie, but it was Mar­celle’s sweet late sec­ond which kick­started the mother of all par­ties in Barns­ley.

Con­vey­ing the sense of eu­pho­ria in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of Barns­ley’s his­toric vic­tory and achieve­ment, Reds chair­man John Den­nis, with no hint of un­der­state­ment, said: “The party will go on for a year.”

Typ­i­cally, clear-sighted man­ager Wilson – a true cham­pion of the world to Reds sup­port­ers – cast his eyes for­ward to the next chal­lenge be­fore get­ting back to the party, which for him ended back at his lo­cal in Ch­ester­field where he was given a stand­ing ova­tion.

Speak­ing af­ter the game amid wild cel­e­bra­tions and an out­pour­ing of emo­tion at Oak­well, Wilson said: “I want to build on what we started here.

“I was grate­ful to Barns­ley for giv­ing me my chance in man­age­ment and I hope this pro­mo­tion is a case of loy­alty re­paid.

“We have done it the right way, too, work­ing hard and hon­estly and play­ing good foot­ball. These fans have seen a lot of hard times here, they de­serve a day like today. We have got to look to Wim­ble­don’s ex­am­ple, now.

“That has to be our in­spi­ra­tion. There is not a lot of money to spend, but what we do have must be spent wisely.”

A fate­ful in­ter­ven­tion from Grimsby Town winger by the name of John Oster had set the stage for Barns­ley’s party and pro­mo­tion corona­tion three days ear­lier.

A goal from the Mariners’ young­ster earned the vis­i­tors a point at Mark McGhee’s third-placed Wolver­hamp­ton Wanderers, en­sur­ing that vic­tory for Barns­ley at home to Brad­ford would be enough to take them up

By the end of the game at Oak­well, McGhee was also in the thoughts of Reds sup­port­ers too.

A brazen chant of “Are you watch­ing Mark McGhee?” did the rounds in ref­er­ence to the Scot’s pre-match as­ser­tion that Barns­ley would be “thrown to the sharks” if they reached the Pre­mier League.

Show­ing rather more class were many of the Brad­ford con­tin­gent in the open away end, who sport­ingly played their part in the cel­e­bra­tions – de­spite their side’s per­ilous plight to­wards the foot of the sec­ond tier.

Thank­fully, it was a fight they would also win. But that April af­ter­noon very much be­longed to Barns­ley.

The first chap­ter of an ex­tra­or­di­nary cam­paign was writ­ten in Au­gust when the Reds won their open­ing five games to top the ta­ble and ‘lit­tle old Barns­ley’ would refuse to go away in the months ahead.

Proof that the Reds were the real deal ar­rived in De­cem­ber when a key win at Bra­mall Lane and a fes­tive home vic­tory over Manch­ester City hard­ened their pro­mo­tion cre­den­tials and a num­ber of other re­sults for­ti­fied that belief.

The majesty of Barns­ley’s eye­catch­ing and vi­brant foot­ball, with a talismanic mid­field leader at the helm in Neil Red­fearn who was pulling the strings, added to the sense of well-be­ing and swelling of pride.

The wob­ble that many were ex­pect­ing would never ar­rive. Barns­ley moved into the top three in late Novem­ber and were to stay there.

From Jan­u­ary 18, Barns­ley lost just three matches in 17 out­ings head­ing into their de­fin­i­tive home match with Brad­ford.

While there were a few nerves af­ter a 4-2 de­feat to Portsmouth at Frat­ton Park the pre­vi­ous week­end, strug­gling Grimsby’s sur­prise draw at Mo­lineux pro­vided the Reds with all the stim­u­lus that they re­quired to fin­ish off the job.

Red­fearn proved the star turn with a haul of 14 goals to se­cure iconic sta­tus with the Reds faith­ful, but con­tri­bu­tions ar­rived from across the park in that leg­endary cam­paign.

The nous of Hen­drie and Wilkin­son – in a reprise of their suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship at Mid­dles­brough – was self-ev­i­dent and there was the goods at the back in an­other who earned cult sta­tus with Reds fans in Ar­jen De Zueew, fa­mously now a de­tec­tive for the po­lice in his na­tive Hol­land.

Home­grown tal­ent in the shape of highly-re­garded keeper David Watson, Eaden and Adi Moses show­cased the Reds’ vi­brant academy in all its glory, with con­tri­bu­tions also from Andy Lid­dell and Scott Jones.

Some as­tute sign­ings from the lower di­vi­sions also proved piv­otal and came of age. Matty Ap­pleby, now a deep sea diver by trade, was a classy sweeper, while Dar­ren Sheri­dan, cur­rently work­ing as a mo­tor­way worker, was a tena­cious and in­de­fati­ga­ble pres­ence in the en­gine room.

Trinida­dian winger Mar­celle pro­vided some crowd-pleas­ing ‘off-the-cuff ’ trick­ery in the fi­nal third and there was also for­eign flair in the shape of Ser­bian mid­fielder Jovo Bo­san­cic, who now runs a wa­ter park in Por­tu­gal.

The in­put of some sea­soned old heads too in the guise of ex­pe­ri­enced de­fender Neil Thomp­son and Peter Shirtliff also played its part, along with an­other solid pro­fes­sional in for­mer Crewe Alexandra man­ager Steve Davis.

It was a win­ning mix in a vin­tage sea­son which no-one con­nected with Barns­ley will ever for­get.

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