THE reasons for Barnsley’s sterling New Year renaissance under David Flitcroft will not solely be found on the club’s training pitch – try looking in the video suite.
Motivation from managers comes in various guises. From a few discreet words here and there and a mild-mannered pep talk to the good old-fashioned Sir Alex Ferguson-style ‘hairdryer’ treatment.
For Barnsley’s players, it has arrived by watching the box with the modern-day thinking Flitcroft having utilised motivational videos as a way of providing them with any extra edge.
It has worked a treat. Just ask Chris Dagnall, who has not looked back after hitting a double in the derby win over Leeds United on January 12 – fresh from watching an inspiring video montage of his goal-laden form at previous club Rochdale after hitting a mere one goal in his previous 25 games for Barnsley.
In the build-up to the Reds’ fifth-round FA Cup engagement at MK Dons, the players also got in the right frame of mind by watching footage – at Flitcroft’s behest – of their five-match winning streak ahead of that tricky test. Cue another impressive victory, which paved the way for today’s glamour televised assignment at the Etihad Stadium.
For Stephen Foster and fellow club stalwarts Bobby Hassell and Luke Steele, Flitcroft probably did not have to bother with the videos this week.
In any case, he was beaten to it by ESPN, who are screening today’s encounter. The broadcaster are also showing golden moments from that magical run in 2008 when Barnsley, featuring the aforementioned trio, reached the semi-finals of the Cup.
A video of the fifth-round win at Anfield actually still takes pride of place in the household of central defender Foster.
It may even have got another airing before kick-off today.
He said: “Watching the footage with ESPN was great and really inspirational. Great memories that will stay with us all forever. The whole run was a fantastic experience for everyone.
“I have got the footage of our 2-1 win at Liverpool at home, when I got the first goal. I have not watched it in ages – I cannot remember the last time.
“But I will probably get that out before the Manchester City game and try to feed off those memories a bit.”
That said, any videos of opponents City are probably off the menu for Barnsley’s players. And with good reason.
During their recent warm-weather training camp in southern Spain, they took time to watch Roberto Mancini’s side impressively beat Chelsea 2-0 live on TV – and you could say they have already seen enough of them.
Foster, 32, does not have to be told twice about the extent of the Reds’ task today and acknowledges they will have to repeat their Anfield heroics of just over five years ago to upset City at their own citadel.
But if he requires any inspiration, he knows what to do.
Foster, who levelled in the 57th minute after Dirk Kuyt opened the scoring on Merseyside, said: “I do not think we need to watch too many videos of City to know what they are about. And we certainly do not want to watch them playing as well as they did against Chelsea too often. We know all about their abundance of quality, and their big-name players.
“If we are going to beat City, it will probably have to be a very similar story (to Anfield). But we know giant-killings can happen because a few of us have been involved in a couple of very famous ones.
“But we are under no illusions over what we are facing – they are the reigning champions and one of the top teams in Europe. But it is going to be a great occasion.”
He added: “Until this week, there has not been much chat about the Cup and what happened in 2008.
“We are in such a precarious position in the league that we have been concentrating on trying to pick up as many points as possible, and it is only now that the game has come around that the boys who were not here in 2008 have been asking what it was like.
“We are all definitely looking forward to the game. As a player you want to go up against those top stars like Tevez and the Toures.”
Foster hails from Warrington, a town smack bang in the middle of the footballing-mad cities of Liverpool and Manchester with support mainly split there between the pair and Everton.
At Anfield in February, 2008, a number of his family members had split loyalties but there will not be any such issues when many again make a short journey along the M62 today.
He said: “I had so many members of my family there at the Liverpool game and most of them were Liverpool fans, so they did not know who to root for.
“My father-in-law and brother –in-law are both season-ticket holders and they were sat in their usual seats among the Liverpool fans and they did not know how to react when I scored. I think inside they were pleased for me. The big clubs are always going to have other days in the limelight.”
Flitcroft has alluded to the stunning Capital One Cup performances of Barnsley’s Yorkshire neighbours Bradford City as a motivational tool for today’s encounter, with the Reds chief having worked with Bantams Cup heroes Gary Jones and Rory McArdle during his time at Rochdale.
Foster admits it has provided a bit of fuel to their own giant-killing fight as Barnsley take up the baton left by Bradford in their quest to do the White Rose proud on the Cup front.
He said: “It has been an inspiration to see Bradford reach the Capital One Cup final, beating three Premier League teams along the way. It just shows that as long as you can pull together, you can sometimes get the right results against better players.
“The team spirit they showed was fantastic, and the spirit here is also great despite our league position.”