It may never have been quite like watching Brazil. But fans of big clubs can have no real concept of what it means to be part of the sort of occasion that gripped Dan Tate 14 months ago. As part of a 51,000-strong crowd, Dan experienced a great afternoon in the history of his club. He had willed himself to believe in a playoff final victory whoever his team, Barnsley, came up against and so it proved. Barnsley 3 Millwall 1 after a comfortable dismissal of Walsall in each leg of the League One semi-final. Dan is a season ticket holder at Oakwell and needless to say, will be there when Sunderland visit on Saturday. He ‘diplomatically’ predicts a draw …
Salut! Sunderland: it seems the embodiment of proper football that your club should be managed by Paul Heckinbottom, a local man who has supported them since boyhood. How does it work out in practice – in other words, do you rate him?
Dan Tate: Hecky – I think it’s fair to say the Barnsley fans absolutely love having a local lad in charge. He’s helped repair a lot of the disconnect that I feel had built between the club and the fans over recent years, especially after the likes of Lee Johnson and his cliche bingo interviews, having a local honest straight talking lad from Tarn is exactly what the fans of this club want.
It does however, in my opinion, mean he gets a little more slack than others might. I feel towards the end of last season his lack of experience did show at times with the team’s inability to see out games, though you do have to cut the guy some slack as the heart of his team had been ripped out in the January window. Overall I’d say he inherited a strong team on the crest of a wave and rode that wave a lot longer than many would have expected, then lost key players and wasn’t sure how to deal with it. Now he has to rebuild.
The chairman Maurice Watkins, arrived with plenty of football experience but no obvious Barnsley link. Is he the right man for the role and does the owner, Patrick Cryne, have the resources and commitment to take you higher?
To be completely honest, Maurice’s involvement in the club has been very minimal or it’s very subtle and behind closed doors. Having been left with no CEO between mid Jan and the summer to say our ownership structure is simplistic would be generous.
However we now have a new CEO in place and it is apparent that past lessons have been learnt in terms of offering too short contracts to young players and having our stars taken from us on the cheap. Mr Cryne is the savour of this club who stopped us going into liquidation in the early 00s. He’s a Barnsley lad done good and a fan at heart, who has committed large parts of his personal fortune into keeping the club afloat when times were bad.
The club is not an investment or plaything for the mega-rich. He fills the void when losses are made and is constantly working to make the club self sufficient and looking to find the right person to pass the reins on to. He will not pass the club onto someone he fears would get us into debt and we are one of the few clubs in the entire country with no debts. Unfortunately Mr Cryne is suffering from ill health and I fear as a fan what is to come.
Are you expecting a lot from your players on loan from big clubs, Ike Ugbo (Chelsea) and Joe Williams (Everton)? Who else in the squad will be important for you and where is strengthening needed?
Personally I don’t mind the odd loan player as they can add that bit of quality we can’t otherwise afford. However I would rather be focusing on the players that are ours rather than polishing someone else’s gems for them. Having made 11 new signings this summer we are essentially blooding a whole new team so it is a little hard to say who is currently important to us, as the individuals I would have listed (Roberts, Watkin, Scowen) have all moved to new teams.
I have high hopes for McGeehan and hope his injury won’t have affected his playing style. Currently, much like the rest of the division, we are in need of some more fire power up top with only four strikers on the books including an Under 21s player. This is definitely the area I hope we will be strengthening.
Comfortably above the relegation zone but a long way short of the playoffs last time – hand on heart where will you finish this season?
Right now I would snatch your hand off to finish where we did last season. Scrap that. Just for 21st position. I suspect this season will be far harder than last, with a whole new team and no longer with the momentum of our play of the last campaign I fear if we don’t hit the ground running it could be a long season. If we do survive however I think we’ll be in a strong position for 2018/19 .
What have been your best and lowest moments as a Barnsley supporter?
Being a Barnsley supporter comes with a lot of lows, as we seem to have an inbuilt ability to throw away points no matter who the players are, who the manager is and no matter who the opposition you can guarantee Barnsley are going to concede in the last 10 minutes. I reckon if you went back through history and changed all results based on an 80 minute game we’d be Premier League.
Season 2015/16 however, has to be the ultimate for highs and lows, sitting bottom at Xmas looking destined for League Two with the worst part being the feeling that we definitely wouldn’t bounce back and could easily be one of those teams that gets stuck down there for years (a la Bradford) and then see our fortunes turn around to the extent that Lee Johnson, who somehow survived having us lose for two solid months, was poached from us, then to storm into the playoffs on the final day with that sense of knowing with outright confidence, that we were definitely going to be promoted and whoever we faced didn’t stand a chance.
Those three games for me were the best of my time supporting Barnsley, the whole town was buzzing. A close second was beating Liverpool in the final seconds of the FA cup 5th round in 2008 after having been hammered all game.
And who are the best players you’ve seen in your colours?
Through my time supporting Barnsley the star of the show has always tended to be an attacking midfielder with quality strikers being a bit of a thing of mystery to be honest.
In my formative years it was Neil Redfearn, who was the complete midfielder. There was nothing the man could not do and as a result his name is often touted for manager. For me it’s better not to spoil the memory, as evidenced by the second coming of Danny Wilson. Redfearn led us to the promised land and very nearly kept us there. How David Batty went to France 98 over him I’ll never know – I promise you one thing that penalty would have been slammed home if it had been down to Redders.
After him came Craig Hignett, whose goals got us all the way to the play of final but not quite back to the Prem. Not quite the all round package of Redfearn but he certainly knew where the back of the net was.
In recent years it’s been Conor Hourihane who although amongst the goals straight away, was still lacking in his all round game when he first appeared at Oakwell. However his is the biggest improvement I have seen in a player as a Reds’ fan By the time he departed in January he was utterly indispensable and it’s no coincidence our form in the second half of the season without him was so poor. He won top assister in the championship last season and would have still won it if you only counted the assists he got for Barnsley. I think that says it all.
Can you think of any who should have been allowed nowhere near Oakwell?
How long have you got? I could write you a whole book on the terrible players who have been through the club in my time supporting them.
Special mentions go a man your fans should be familiar with. Vito Mannone who turned out twice for Barnsley on loan in 2006 and his gaffes caused us to lose both games from winning positions and Mido who joined in 2012 among much excitement from the fans who thought we had pulled off a real coup. That was until what turned up to the signing was a 20-stone lad who looked like he’d eaten Mido. Suffice to say his one appearance for the club was one too many and he soon went back to causing chaos at the local all you can eat buffets.
Barnsley. Sir Michael Parkinson, Arthur Scargill, Dickie Bird and , especially for an old folkie like me, Kate Rusby and Dave Burland – are names associated with Barnsley. Who has shown most interest in the football club?
Let’s set one thing straight right now, Michael Parkinson is not a Barnsley fan, never has been, he’ll jump on the coat tails of the club every once in a while if it suits his media profile to be associated, but I can guarantee you you’ll never see him down at Oakwell.
The same applied to Darren Gough. I’ve met Dickie a couple of times down at the club. Someone who is a huge Reds’ fan and never gets any notice for it is actor Shaun Dooley. I follow him on Twitter and he’s always getting behind the Reds. He also comes across as very proud to be from Barnsley, something that others are quick to try and deny when they hit the spot light.
What about Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city the region, Simon Grayson? Your thoughts …
I’ve not had chance to visit the Stadium of Light to date with us not having spent a great deal of time in the same league in recent years.
I think there are a lot of similarities between Sunderland and Barnsley being historically working class towns that have had their industries taken away from them and generations have been left without employment and purpose. The number one thing I know about Sunderland that I learnt at University is that you can send anyone from the area into a frenzy by uttering one magic word “Parmo”.
I’m hoping to try one when I make it for an awayday. For any Barnsley fans reading who doesn’t know what I’m talking about say this magic word to a Mackem and you soon will.
Simon Grayson is a good solid Championship manager, though of course due to his connections with L**ds I’m not allowed to like him. He worked wonders at Preston with no money to spend, though from his past record I feel he may actually be one of those managers who is better on limited resources and is not actually sure what to do when funds are made available to him, time will tell.
What should we expect in the Championship in terms of quality, style and how do you reckon we’ll do?
I’m sure you’ve heard it already but the Championship really is the most unpredictable league there is On any given day any team could beat another. You can spend a fortune on players and not get anywhere (look at QPR) or you can spend nothing and fly up the league.
This summer the spending really has gone mental, when teams in the Championship are spending £10m on a striker then the game really has gone.
Crazier than this is the fact you have very average players taking home £30/40k a week to play at this level and to be honest it makes me graetful Barnsley don’t offer this kind of money, even if it does mean we will forever be having our players poached as their heads are turned by the chance to increase their earnings by 100s per cent.
I’m afraid I don’t expect Sunderland to bounce straight back. Once you come down from the Prem a clear out and restart is needed. You seem to be carrying a lot of your Premier League deadwood still who won’t want to put in the hard graft required in this league, I may be proven wrong but with no Defoe to lead the line I think you’ll be looking at somewhere between 6th-12th.
Are diving and other forms of cheating prevalent as in the Premier League?
Players still try and dive now and again but in general they’re not so skilled at it so they struggle to fool the refs. The championship is much more akin to your old school cheating – shirt pulling, pushing and grabbing.
Best ref, worst ref at this level?
To be honest I don’t spend a lot of time paying attention to the refs as they all seem to be of an equally poor quality and this might simply be how every fan feels but there always seems to be favouritism towards the bigger team (which is very rarely Barnsley). I’d need a statistician to confirm but I don’t think we got more than three penalties in our favour last season whereas plenty were given against us.
Will you be at the game? What will be the score?
Being a season ticket holder I will be at the game. It’s still very early days and very tricky to predict. The class of players you have should on paper mean a win for Sunderland, but I tend to find that Barnsley will pick up the surprise results against the better teams and then lose what should be their “easy” home games against the bottom half sides.
We’re already seeing again this season that in the Championship any team can beat any other on their day. I’ll go with a diplomatic 1-1 on Saturday.
* Dan Tate on himself: I’m 27, going into my 20th year supporting the Reds. I always say that I was tricked into being a Barnsley fan by my stepdad as when I was just starting to take a real interest in game Barnsley were going through the best spell in their history and about to start life in the Premier League. Thus having recently moved to the town I was straight on the bandwagon.Despite my dad’s best efforts to get me to follow his team, Norwich City, I could never find that passion for them due to disconnection created by the distance. Despite the early glory being short lived it was too late and Barnsley FC were a part of who I was.
The first house I owned was within a half mile radius of the ground, meaning I could be in my seat within 10 minutes of leaving the house which was always handy for a Tuesday night game. For the day job I work as a group accountant for a serviced office company, though would love to land a job working in the accounts department of the football club.
Interview: Colin Randall