AS a Manchester United fan, Luke Steele knows plenty about the importance of not giving up until the final whistle.
Even if the clock starts to tick down on Barnsley’s eight-season Championship tenure at the Riverside late this afternoon, expect the Reds’ goalkeeper, for one, to be the last person to give in.
If you spot him in the attacking area in the final stages on Teesside, your eyes will not be deceiving you.
Football has conjured up many crazy end-of-season episodes over the years.
From the stunning victory-from-the-jaws-of-defeat Champions League final triumph for the Red Devils at the Nou Camp in 1999 to the similarly staggering Premier League denouement in May, 2012 when Sergio Aguero’s moment left the blue side of Manchester in ecstasy and the red side flattened.
And who can forget the Jimmy Glass episode at Brunton Park on the last day of the 1998-99 season when the Carlisle United goalkeeper scored a scarcely believable last-gasp winner for the Cumbrian side to ensure they stayed in the Football League at the expense of Scarborough.
It is the stuff dreams are made of and Barnsley, four points adrift of Championship safety with two games left and facing their most difficult act of escapology after a fair few escape acts since returning to the second tier in 2005-06, might just need at least one of those moments.
Last season, Barnsley stayed up by a point ahead of Steele’s home-town club Peterborough United and if the players require any reminder of the importance of playing to the end, it should come with their 1-1 draw at Cardiff on April 9, 2013.
A goal in the sixth minute of stoppage time from Stephen Foster earned a precious point for the Reds.
It effectively kept them up ahead of Posh, who would have survived if they had finished level on points with Barnsley due to a better goal difference.
All of the above should provide an inkling of hope to everyone connected with the club as they head north today.
It is not over until it is over as every Barnsley fan should know, despite the heavy lows of a desperate Easter which have left League One in the rear view mirror after defeats to Derby County and Leeds United, a holiday weekend which Steele referred to as “disastrous”.
Steele said: “I am sure some people will be chatting in their work-place saying: ‘They are down.’
“But if we get a win on Saturday you get huge hope. Without that (hope) you are dead.
“You are brought up never to give in. I used to watch Manchester United, and their philosophy was never to give in and that will be our philosophy literally until the dying seconds.
“Whether it is me coming up for corners or whatever, I certainly won’t be throwing in the towel until the fat lady sings.
“You can’t give up at this stage. As the gaffer said in the changing rooms, if we drop our heads and give up and get say a draw and a win in the next two games and two teams don’t get anything, we will be kicking ourselves thinking, ‘If only we’d just kept that belief.’
He added: “We still have something to play for and if we win on Saturday, it keeps us in with a shout.
“The first 24 hours after the Derby game was especially tough as we didn’t have time to dwell on it after the Leeds game.
“Initially people fear the worst. But once they start to look at results and get it explained to them we are still in with a shout, there’s no option but to keep the hope, faith and positive vibes.
“Because if we win on Saturday, unless every team wins, we go into that last game with a massive bit of confidence and hope and everyone will come together for that one game and it gives us a chance.
“We can’t just think we are out of it, like a lot of clubs would do. Stranger things have happened.
“Saturday is the biggest game of the season. Fact. There’s no other option as previously we’ve always had that fallback of next week. Saturday is the cup final.
“I have never been relegated so far and it’s the worst thing possible in a player’s career. You don’t want that against your name.”
Handling heavy-duty pressure on the road has served the Reds well of late, with huge victories at Yeovil, Reading and Charlton showing they possess bottle.
How a repeat would be cherished at the Riverside in the club’s final away outing of 2013-14, when they will be chasing their fourth success in six outings on their travels.
It is a shame about their home form with Barnsley failing to build on that impressive away triple. Confidence gained was just as quickly demolished with Danny Wilson’s side having not found the net in their last five home outings.
It has been a season to test the mental fortitude and spirit of the Reds perhaps like never before in their sojourn in the second tier since the early Eighties.
Even accounting for the Reds’ escapes in the recent past, Steele, a veteran of several campaigns, is of the view that success this year would probably eclipse them all, even last season’s incredible ‘Survival Saturday’ heroics at Huddersfield Town.
He said: “Yes, I think it would top last season because last year we were almost unlucky because of the high points we had got.
“But this year will be a low points tally and the scenario we are in with two games to go means it would be tougher.
“A lot of teams and managers think it’s over, but it’s not. We will keep fighting to the end.”