BARNSLEY supporters may have needed no second invitation to indulge in an airing or two of Bob Marley’s classic Three Little Birds song in modern times – but a different refrain from the Jamaican icon was more appropriate given yesterday’s events. Namely Redemption Song.
At Wembley of all places, with the Reds’ madcap, crazy, brilliant campaign reaching new intoxicating heights.
From Altrincham to exultation. While the Reds’ travelling hordes drunk in yesterday’s events that will have tasted as delectable as the finest champagne, the sensation will have been particularly sweet for those who stood in the away end at Moss Lane as Barnsley’s pitiful campaign descended into a low when they were embarrassed in the FA Cup in November.
None who attended will have watched the Match of the Day replay highlights of that one, but they will be rather more inclined to view re-runs of Barnsley’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy highs in a pulsating final with Oxford United.
The emotions at the end were the polar opposite to the lows of a torrid autumn when a record equalling run of eight successive league losses and a desperate FA Cup exit left Barnsley seeking salvation from anywhere.
Given a season that everybody connected with the club will remember for years to come, with another chapter or two to possibly still be written, yesterday was never going to be straightforward, was it?
Like with their topsy-turvy campaign, there were ups and downs on the hallowed Wembley turf. From frustration and despair to delicious delirium.
It was perhaps fitting that one player who more than any other in a red jersey has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous footballing fortune proved the catalyst for their second-half comeback in Adam Hammill.
Left on the shelf back in the autumn, the winger found welcome sanctuary in the warm embrace of Oakwell and his marvellous third goal will live long in the memory of around 23,000 fans who descended on the home of football.
His unbridled celebrations after the final whistle were born of someone who has hit something resembling rock-bottom in football and has now been afforded his cathartic moment.
Just as revealing was the sight of several overwrought Barnsley players slumping to the floor at the end of six, oh-so-long minutes of stoppage-time in a mixture of sheer relief and exhaustion when Andy Woolmer blew the final whistle.
No need for words.
At half-time, it looked like a rerun of Barnsley’s previous Wembley woes, with that 2008 FA Cup semi-final loss to Cardiff and the 2000 Championship play-off defeat to Ipswich Town springing to seasoned supporters’ minds – with none even alive when the Reds won their only previous cup silverware in their sole FA Cup triumph in 1912.
The new-look Barnsley had other ideas in front of rows of flat-capped fans who were no doubt throwing their headwear up in ecstasy at the end.
Just after the interval, the mood was not as exuberant with a cursory early second-half chant of “Come on you Reds’ somewhat lacking conviction. But the plea was heard somewhere, although a bit of friendship from Oxford’s Cheyenne Dunkley did not half help.
Childhood mates with Barnsley top-scorer Sam Winnall in their formative years in Wolverhampton, Dunkley did a good turn when diverting home a cross under pressure from his pal as the Reds belatedly found their mojo on 52 minutes to level.
It was left to Ashley Fletcher to well and truly start the party 16 minutes later and how the young, raw striker, hitherto anonymous, celebrated with unashamed abandon.
Finally we had a cup final and how those with red in their blood, those from Royston to Ryhill and South Hiendley to Staincross, soon drank a toast to a vintage Hammill strike.
Still there was time to sweat, thanks to Danny Hylton’s strike before Barnsley finally breathed again.
Anyone for an encore in late May?
Stranger things have happened.