Bristol Rovers v Barnsley: Title would cap remarkable season for Reds captain Adam Davies
Stories of the club’s feted class of 2015-16 who clinched Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and League One play-off glory at Wembley in the space of 56 days have been regaled by the Oakwell captain to his team-mates at stages of this season – with pictorial images around the stadium being a further reminder of that epic feat.
But Davies, the sole surviving member from that decorated squad of three seasons ago, is delighted that the present-day Reds side have made their own history after the club booked an instant return to the Championship this week without kicking a ball in anger.
Further kudos could arrive in the West Country today if Daniel Stendel’s side better Luton’s result and secure a league title, something that the club last achieved way back in 1954-55.
Davies is the first to admit that this year’s promotion ride has been far less helter-skelter than the events of 15-16, with Barnsley’s latest story of success being based around wonderful consistency from day one.
While it has lacked a fairytale aspect, Davies believes it has been every bit as satisfying, more especially given the pressure that the Yorkshire outfit were under from the start of the season.
Captaining the side to promotion and achieving one of his declared season’s goals of making the PFA League One’s Team of the Year and making his Wales debut has provided added gloss for the 26-year-old.
But being greedy, a league winners’ medal will round things off nicely today.
Davies, who will discuss his own future with the Reds hierarchy next week – with the goalkeeper out of contract in the summer – said: “Hats off to everyone involved, it has been a fantastic season. The lads will go down in history and it is a proud day and moment for them all.
“The 2016 promotion was such a rollercoaster season and it was like two different seasons. This one has been positive all year, whereas the one before was a big low and then excitement to get in the play-offs and a case of seeing where we ended up.
“From day one this season, automatic promotion has been the main aim and for us to do it and get over the line with one game to go is brilliant.
“Three years ago, it was a case of just seeing where we would end up and we came from all the way from the bottom of the league. But this year, there has been a lot more pressure on to get the results and get the job done.
“We managed to handle it quite well and get the job done.
“I have felt a little bit more responsible for the lads in terms of guiding them in the right direction. After the Burton defeat, it was all doom and gloom, but we had a good chat and have gone unbeaten since then and have managed to do it.
“I am really proud of the lads and everyone involved to get the job done.”
The two promotion tales may have contrasted markedly, but Davies has cited similarities with the two squads, more especially given the momentum generated by both and the players’ ages – with the current Reds squad similarly hungry to make their mark at second-tier and names for themselves in the same way as the likes of Conor Hourihane, Marc Roberts, Sam Winnall and Marley Watkins did.
Davies continued: “There are definitely similarities between the sides. Although quite a lot of the lads have played in the Championship already. So they do know what it is about.
“The momentum we had when we last went up meant we surprised a few teams, so we definitely have the quality again and the manager has been great and, hopefully, we can do it again next season.”
It will be the devout hope of many connected with the club that Davies will still be in Barnsley colours and lining up for the club on their Championship return in August.
That remains to be seen with the keeper to turn attentions to his future after today’s encounter at the Memorial Stadium.
On his future, Davies, coming towards the end of his fifth campaign at the club after being signed by former Reds chief Danny Wilson from Sheffield Wednesday in the summer of 2014, said: “We will have a sit down with the board and stuff and see where we are with them.
“I am open-minded. I will take some time and have a good think and then we will see where we go.”