Norwich entertain Barnsley on Saturday in what should be a stress free festival of football with nothing much at stake for either side. But will it? Rich spoke to Barnsley supporting duo, Chris ‘n Carlo, to get the talk of the Tarn.
Rich: So, a win for you on Saturday could see you move level on points with us. You’ve had a great season on your return to the Championship, never looked remotely in danger of dropping back down and indeed were troubling the play off places earlier in the season. So, I assume that *ahem* all’s well at Oakwell?
Chris 'n Carlo: The mood amongst the supporters is great. As a town we now have a club that we feel is our own and a team that we know gives its all week-in and week-out. It's also pretty special that we have our owner, captain and manager all coming from the town.
Rich: It is lovely to have those local links at a club, fantastic stuff, makes any success more special doesn’t it? So you mentioned your manager Paul Heckingbottom who, as well as having possibly the most Yorkshire surname there is, got you promoted via the play-offs and won you the Football League Trophy as caretaker manager. A Wembley double, not bad. No wonder you gave him the full-time job. What’s the secret to your success under him?
Chris 'n Carlo: Hard work, determination. And when you listen to the gaffer speak it's never resting on your successes. It's about being better in the next game and the game after that, no matter how well you've played. Paul has a knack of being able to get the best out of everyone and if people take it on board he'll take them far as players. The evidence is there for all to see.
Rich: That work-rate (and our relative lack of it) was very much the difference between the two sides back in December when you ran out 2-1 winners. That and the highly rated Conor Hourihane (now sold to Villa) who scored what turned out to be the winner. Have you missed him? You got in Matty James on loan from Leicester, is he a similar kind of player?
Chris 'n Carlo: Definitely missing the quality of Conor. That hard work we just talked about, he embodied it. Led from the front, a Barnsley legend for sure. We were such a threat from set pieces during his time at Oakwell. We have lost that a little bit but as with everything you have to move on. Matty is a different type of player, so good on and off the ball. A Rolls Royce of a midfielder as we've said on our show.
Rich: It’s a shame he’s gone, I was looking forward to a commentator's nightmare with Hoolahan and Hourihane on the same pitch! We have just parted company with Alex Neil who was a Barnsley old boy, and Heckingbottom played for us. There have been several other links over the years, Ashley Ward being a personal favourite of mine. So, quick quiz question for you. Of all the players to represent both clubs, what distinction does Ward hold?
Chris 'n Carlo: A favourite among most reds fans as well!!! You've stumped us there!! Going to say, if we've got you right here. The only player to be relegated from the Premier League with both clubs?
Rich: Yes! But more than that, he is the only player to have represented both clubs in the top division of English football. Us in 1994/95 and you in 1997/98. As you say, both seasons ended in relegation so he's a bit of a Jonah is our Ashley!
Chris 'n Carlo: A fine example though of a hard working English centre forward! The only man as well to score a goal, miss a penalty AND get sent off in a game as Barnsley were the first team to win at the Stadium Of Light!
Rich: Really? Haha, that's pretty impressive stuff. I liked him as a player, as you say, he gave his all. I can remember you being up in the Premier League pretty well. Neil Redfearn was a big player for you then wasn’t he?
Chris 'n Carlo: He was THE player for us, terribly overlooked for the France ‘98 squad that summer in favour of David Batty! Neil worked hard to get his shot at the big time. He is remembered fondly at Barnsley, the fans’ bar is named after him.
Rich: I wish he'd gone instead of Batty, he'd probably have scored that penalty in the shootout against Argentina and history could be very different. Redfearn's one of those players that's synonymous with just one club I think, I can only picture him in a Barnsley shirt.
So that season was, incredibly, your only one in the sun of the top division of English football. Heckingbottom’s got you well placed this season, do you think with a few additions you can push on and maybe achieve the play-offs next season, and - who knows - crack the Premier League again?
Chris 'n Carlo: Without a doubt. Paul has the ability, like I said earlier, to get the best out of the players. With the right additions in the summer, who knows? Regardless, the majority of our fan base are happy back being where we've predominantly been and it means more to us to see a team give its all for the town than the millions of pounds the Premier League ever could!
Rich: Huddersfield are a similar sized club to you, so if they can do it there’s no reason why you can’t.
So, we were unbeaten in 11 games against you prior to our meeting earlier this season. You were that very rarest of beasts, a team we had a hoodoo over, that ended at Oakwell. But, and I cannot quite believe this, though I’ve checked and checked. *STAT ATTACK KLAXON* You’ve not beaten us at Carrow Road since 1937! 80 years! (Alright, we’ve not played that often in that time). However, you’ve won 8 away games this season (bettered only by Newcastle, Brighton & Huddersfield), so is it your time to lay those 80 years of hurt to rest?
Chris 'n Carlo: 80 years of hurt and just one win in nine has us hoping for a Reds victory on Saturday!!
Rich: My Dad was a babe in arms in 1937 so won’t remember that defeat, he’ll be there on Saturday, so please don’t upset the old boy by winning! How does Heckingbottom set you up away from home, and now Hourihane’s gone who do we need to keep an eye on?
Chris 'n Carlo: We'll try not to!! He doesn't alter from game to game in terms of how we play. We'll be well-drilled, work hard, counter-attack and everyone will be aware of their jobs on the day. There's a plethora of players to watch out for, James is a class above. The front two are lively, Hammill on his day is unplayable. Also have to give a nod to Andy Yiadom… Mr Reliable at the back.
Rich: OK, prediction time lads. Our season is petering out amid not little unrest behind the scenes, which is spilling out onto the terraces. We've struggled against hard-working, well-organised teams who counter quickly so I fear for my Dad's mood come 4:50. Though the pressure’s off so we may play with some freedom. Hard to predict, but I'm going for a narrow home win. 2-1. What will the score be, can you put those 80 years of Carrow Road misery behind you?
Chris ‘n Carlo: In all honesty we are due a win. And we'll plump for a 2-1 away win!
Rich was speaking to Chris ‘n Carlo of The Reds Report, the by the fans for the fans official Barnsley FC Podcast. You can follow them on twitter @BFCRedsReport and catch their podcast and Fan Cam videos on the official Barnsley HD Player at player.barnsleyfc.co.uk