As I hope you can tell I’m a passionate sports fan, but I wanted to tell you a little bit more about my passion for Barnsley Football Club. I love the club with all my heart and till the day I die will always be a red. It all started in 1987 when my Dad took me to Oakwell to watch Barnsley v Hull City. Alan Clark was manager then, and it was all standing at Oakwell in those days. I was 6 years old and was so small that I had to stand on an empty beer crate to see over the wall. We lost that day 2-0 to Hull City and there were lots of things at my early age I didn’t understand about football. At that point we were a lot higher then Hull in the league table. My mind could not understand why we had lost to a side so far below us. I thought as we were higher in the league we must win automatically. I remember the same thing happened when we beat Sunderland 3-0. Steve Cooper did an acrobatic somersault right in front of me after scoring a sublime chip. David Currie!! What a striker he was!! Football was football then. I remember in the same season watching us play the mighty Everton in the FA Cup 5th Round. Graeme Sharp scored the only goal of the game, low and hard into the bottom corner. Before the game my Grandma said you mustn’t cry if Barnsley loose but I did!! At that time we played in what I think is one of the most original Barnsley football kit designs of all time. All red top to toe with red and white zig zag strips going down the sleeves and on the shorts. That was my first Barnsley kit and I remember opening it up on Christmas Day and never wanting to take it off. My Grandma, Grandpa and father were from Cudworth and Cudworth has always been my second home. My dad had moved to Hertfordshire at that point a lovely town called Baldock, and I always thought it was funny that people from Cudworth or “Cudduth”
as it sounds if pronounced by the natives thought me to be posh when I spoke. I certainly was confused because everyone where I lived thought I sounded northern. I so desperately wanted to be from Barnsley when I was younger I guess I tried to speak that way. I certainly stood out in football practice when I wore the red zig zag strip of Barnsley and everyone else was in a Liverpool strip. At that time in 87 Liverpool were the big boys and Alex Ferguson was just about to burst on to the scene in a big way. I’ve always been proud of that strip and wearing it amongst the Liverpool’s and Man Utds of this world. The amount of stick I got was unbelievable and I always dreamt of the day we would beat Liverpool in the FA Cup and I could have my revenge. Well it happened 20 years later when Brian Howard Stuck the ball into the back of the net in the last minute at Anfield to make it 2-1 in 2008. I remember going out that evening with my good friends Aidan Price and Dan O Riordan and thinking back to those days where it would have been unthinkable to beat Liverpool and smiling. It was a great feeling and it meant so much to me. All those years of ridicule and torment for being a Barnsley fan disappeared in an instant. But I wouldn’t change it. It made me even prouder to be Barnsley
I can remember the Oakwell club shop being no more then a shed when dad took me every Christmas to get the home strip, which was a present from my Grandma. There was something magical about that shop in its own right. So intricate so personable. Everything was so honest and pure, for the love of the game and Barnsley certainly epitimised that. I’ve always felt that Lowry’s painting going to the match could of been of Oakwell and its fantastic supporters.
Dad and I would always watch Barnsley as much as we could and travel up at least once a month from Hertfordshire and we would see Grandma in Cudworth and she would spoil us rotten. Saturday was a ritual. We always had homemade sandwiches with tea and a kit kat. We’d always be in the gound for 1;30pm. I never understood why dad got there so early… Grandma was so warm and caring, so very kind but with a stern firm backbone that I believe is typical of Barnsley people. A never say die attitude with a tremendous fighting spirit, courageous and generous. There has always been a community spirit in Barnsley. As a young lad I always wished I was from there.
Alan Clark was then to be replaced by Mel Machin a big name at the time who was charged to get Barnsley into the top flight I believe after previously managing Manchester City. At the time we had players like Andy Rammell and Brendon O Connell and a certain Barnsley center back called Gerry Taggart. He was an outstanding player . A Northern Ireland international and I was lucky to meet him. In 1990 I wrote to Barnsley Football Club asking if I could come and interview Mel Machin as I was doing a school project for my primary school based on Barnsley Football Club. The club replied and I was invited to come an interview Eric Winstanley, a Barnsley legend who was first class with me form start to finish and even invited me to be mascot. He was brilliant and I will never forget his kindness. He kept his word and I was able to become Barnsley mascot v Charlton Athletic in 1991. We were loosing 1-0 and Brendan O Connell scored a diving header to equalise. It was a great day and I will never forget it. When dad and I used to go and watch the first team train, Eric would always recogonise me and have time for me and speak to Dad and I. A truly tremendous man.
After Mel Machin came Viv Anderson and then Danny Wilson. What a team we were. What a great man and the enthusiasm and brand of football Danny played and it was a joy to watch in 1996. one game I can remember was when we smashed Reading 3-0 and I can remember Darren Sheridan picking up the ball and firing it into the top corner from more then 25 yards. I was 15 at the time and that will always be my favourite Barnsley team. One of my biggest regret was not being able to see the super reds win promotion. At the time dad was assistant manger of Hitchin Town and I was with him as I always supported him as a manager and went all over the country with him particularly when he was manager of Baldock Town. They were Doctor Martens Premier at the time just two leagues below league two, so a very good standard.
I will never forget that Clint Marcelle goal when we beat Bradford City 2-0. The premiership year was class and Neil Redfearn arguably Barnsleys greatest ever player (and in my eyes always will be) scored 14 goals that season I think. I always used to believe had he played for a so called bigger club he surely would have played for England that year. When we beat Man Utd 3-2 in the cup especially after loosing 7-0 earlier at Old Trafford was very special. I was there for the 7-0 drubbing by United. A truly class football club Manchester United are and I will always respect them after the work I have done with them. They are superb but it was great to get through against them in 98 to reach the FA Cup quarter final. Sadly we lost to Newcastle and I’ve always believed that had we played Newcastle at home we would have done em and progressed. Sadly we were relegated that season and Danny the King Wilson moved on, which I personally have never held against him. He did a great job with us and was entitled to go to a club he played for and were still in the Premiership. I am just so so glad he is back and it is still sinking in. I can’t wait for Danny to get his teeth into the Barnsley team again. Exciting times!!
As we moved on to 2006 Barnsley got to the play off final v Swansea at Cardiff, after getting relegated and being in League 1 for 4 seasons. Dad and I really wanted to go. We had lots of ticket stubs but couldn’t get ti Oakwell to que so we sent our 95 year old Grandma to wait for the tickets. She got the bus and made her way to the Oakwell ticket office and waited in line for two hours. When She got ti the front to pay, she was initially refused tickets, her reply was ” My son and grandson are life long supporters, I am 95 years of age, I have been waiting for two hours and I am not leaving without my tickets” She was given them without further delay. I miss my Grandma deeply. I always told her she would get to 100 but sadly at the age of 97 she passed away. I will never forget the kindness and the determination she distilled in me. I guess I get my passion and my never say die attitude from her. I will never give up on my art and if I can succeed I honour her and my family. Even though I am not from Barnsley I have been brought up the northern way with northern values. Barnsley won the final on penalties and got back to the Championship where we belong. We have spent more seasons at this level then any other team!!
So In 2007-2008 I met Darren Haye and Rachel Hearne, the latter being still on the Barnsley FC marketing team. Both Darren and Rachel are absolutely first class people and they allowed me to work with the club and produce artwork to display at Oakwell which was a dream come true. I managed to get on to BBC Look North with it and they did a feature on me and my art to do with getting to the Semi final of the FA Cup!! Barnsley had a poet in residence but they also had an artist in residence. I honestly thought our name was on the cup that year after beating Liverpool and Chelsea on the way but Sadly it wasn’t to be. Loosing to Cardiff was a bitter pill to swallow.
I love the club and dearly would like to be involved again producing art that celebrates the clubs rich history. Id love to work with the Barnsley again and keep the love affair going with the club that have been so good to me as a boy and an adult. With Danny Wilson back we as fans can look forward to better times. A great man and a great manager and surely the most significant re appointment in the clubs recent history. I will always be a Barnsley fan and will always celebrate the friendship I have with my Dad who is my best friend. Barnsley forever, Barnsley till I die.