Championship holds no fear for Barnsley, says Sam Winnall

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SAM WINNALL insists that the last thing he and his Barnsley team-mates will be guilty of is feeling fazed by the venerated surroundings of the Championship come August.

With good reason given the fact that often in football a winning mentality is everything.

GOING UP: Barnsley strikers Sam Winnall with the trophy after the League One play-off final victory at Wembley. Picture: PA

GOING UP: Barnsley strikers Sam Winnall with the trophy after the League One play-off final victory at Wembley. Picture: PA

Since Christmas, the Reds – whose stupendous second half of 2015-16 was crowned by promotion at Wembley on Sunday – have won 19 league and play-off matches out of 27, losing just three times.

Mouth-watering visits to the likes of St James’ Park and Villa Park – and, closer to home, Elland Road and Hillsborough – lie ahead and given the fact that Barnsley have lost just once on their travels in just over six months since November 24, they should not be going just to admire the scenery on the next adventure for the redoubtable Reds.

For Winnall, it will be a leap into the unknown as it will be his maiden Championship foray, but it is something by which he is not daunted – quite the opposite in fact. Why would he be following a haul of 24 goals in an outstanding 2015-16 season?

Winnall said: “The Championship next season is going to be a really high standard, we know that, and it is going to be tough for us.

Barnsley's Sam Winnall celebrates with fans at Wembley. Picture: Nick Potts/PA.

Barnsley's Sam Winnall celebrates with fans at Wembley. Picture: Nick Potts/PA.

“But with the form we are in and the way we are feeling at the moment, who would bet against us? We have beaten so many teams since Christmas and it would be really harsh to rule us out as we are playing well.

“I was at Wolves when they were in the Premier League and then went into Championship.

“But I have never actually played in the Championship and it is something I am really looking forward to.

“All I want to do is enjoy my football, play at the highest level possible and score goals. Now we are in the Championship, let’s go from there and set new targets.

ON THE BALL: Barnsley's Sam Winnall tangles with Millwall's Shaun Williams.  Picture: Tony Johnson

ON THE BALL: Barnsley's Sam Winnall tangles with Millwall's Shaun Williams. Picture: Tony Johnson

“We will back ourselves against anyone as we have come through every challenge in front of us.

“With the confidence we have got and winning breeds winning, we are going to go there full of confidence.”

Reds supporters are entitled to relish the unveiling of the Football League fixture list in just over three weeks more than most when some marquee destinations will come into view.

For Winnall, one match-up is likely to catch his eye when he pores over the fixtures, the Reds’ trip to Molineux, having started his career at Wolves.

He said: “It will be great. Wolves is my home-town club and it will be nice to go back there and see a lot of familiar faces.

“But I will be waiting to go back there and get the win.”

While Winnall has hogged the limelight plenty of times in an unforgettable campaign, strike partner Ashley Fletcher claimed centre stage after firing the Reds’ opener after just 88 seconds in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Millwall.

The young forward has returned to Manchester United and two other key loanees in Lloyd Isgrove and Josh Brownhill have also completed their Reds commitments, but fans remain hopeful that it will not be the last that they have seen of the trio.

Barnsley’s players are no different, with Winnall admitting he has particularly enjoyed his flourishing partnership with Fletcher since he arrived at the club in January.

Winnall added: “I have struck a really good partnership with Ash. He got his goal and we have worked well together and have a really good understanding and it would be great to be playing alongside him next season.”