WHISPER it quietly, but the clouds are finally starting to break amid clear signs of a new dawn at Barnsley.
After a largely sunless last two seasons – especially at Oakwell when verve, expression and a clear footballing philosophy has been sacrificed at the altar of desperately trying to scramble around for results – a Eureka moment may have finally arrived.
It may have come in a losing cause, with Lee Johnson’s Reds losing out 5-3 in a classic Capital One Cup tie with Everton on Wednesday night, but the Oakwell club claimed a prize just as priceless.
Namely, starting to re-engage with sections of townsfolk who had grown apathetic since Barnsley retreated to obscurity after the uplifting Great Escape of the second half of 2012-13.
Reds fans present at Oakwell on Wednesday night, or those watching at home, could not have failed to be energised by the hosts enlightened football against exalted company – and if anything made a statement about the fearless, bold style of play that Johnson is trying to espouse, then this did.
A loss yes, but a special night nevertheless and a potential catalyst in the development of new Barnsley.
Just ask one of their ‘older heads’ in goalscorer Sam Winnall, as well as Johnson.
Winnall said: “It was special and definitely a game I will remember for the rest of my career.
“It was a really good experience and something we can all learn from.
“We were given a standing ovation at the end of the game and that’s something that really will last long in the memory of not only myself, but the rest of the team.
“There’s so many positives we can take as a club from this game.
“We put on a really good performance; not just in terms of taking Everton to the wire, but playing some really good football.
“It speaks volumes of the club and the direction it’s going.
“We all want to strive for success and get in the Championship.
“This was a great advert for the club and philosophy we have.”
“I couldn’t be prouder of my team-mates. The game was a pleasure to play in and hopefully we can kick on in the league and take this type of performance into Saturday at Rochdale.”
Winnall’s effusive comments were echoed by a proud Johnson, who is entitled to believe that if his side’s performance against Everton does not resonate with Barnsley folk currently staying away from Oakwell, then nothing will.
After the game, Johnson also received unprompted acclaim from his counterpart Roberto Martinez, who took time out in victory to first praise his rival’s side, describing the Reds as ‘youthful, dynamic and technically gifted.’
The performance of Barnsley’s fresh-faced crop could not have failed to have whetted the appetite of the Reds faithful and now Johnson is after more.
Johnson, who revealed he is hoping to add a couple more signings ahead of Tuesday’s 6pm summer transfer window deadline, added: “There’s a lot of encouraging signs; for large parts of the game we were equals to a really top Premier League side who had to make changes at half-time to live with us.
“We are disappointed not to come out of the tie winning, but I am so pleased with the way the players performed.
“We need to use it as a catalyst to kick us on now.
“It’s very exciting for us as we will only get better.
“What was nice at the end when I shook the Everton players’ hands was that they knew they were genuinely in a game.
“A couple said: ‘Wow, it’s unbelievable to see that football at this level’.
“It was fair, but nice to hear.”