Barnsley FC defender Michael Sollbauer on why Christmas was truly special

CHRISTMAS and the festive month of December is widely celebrated as the most wonderful time of the year - and Barnsley defender Michael Sollbauer believes it was the time when he and his team-mates felt that the 2020-21 season had the potential to be special.

WISE HEAD: Barnsley's Michael Sollbauer, in action against Birmingham City's Scott Hogan. Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA

The Reds are about to embark on arguably the most definitive run-in in their modern-day history, with the prize at stake being play-off participation for just the first time at second-tier level since 1999-2000 and just the second occasion at this level in the club’s history if all goes well over the next eight games.

Fifth in the Championship, Barnsley - who welcome Reading on Good Friday - have amassed their best points tally at this level in 14 second-tier seasons since reaching the play-off final in 2000 and their recent 12-match unbeaten run was their longest at this level since 2001-02.

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A recent purple patch of nine wins in ten matches propelled them firmly into the promotion mix, with memorable victories arriving against the likes of Bournemouth and Brentford.

But for Sollbauer, it was the club’s run of six victories in eight matches in a testing December which truly transformed their season and gave everyone reason to believe that the second half of the campaign could potentially be a special and rewarding one.

That run featured four wins where they came from behind to register 2-1 successes against Birmingham, Sheffield Wednesday, Preston and Huddersfield Town.

The Austrian defender said: “Sometimes, you feel it when there is a possibility to do a bit more and you have not really thought about it. That time was in December.

“There were a lot of games, eight, where I thought this could be very interesting where the season goes up or in mid-table. How we performed in December was brilliant as we all knew it was a tough month.

“Even after we lost some games in January, when we knew it would be very tough, our performances were quite good, although the results weren’t. With the last run, no-one would have said we would have it.

"But in December, I felt that it could be something special. We will not say it will be something special (now), as we have to work hard to stay on this run.”

Paying credit to the colossal impact of Valerien Ismael in cultivating a winning mentality at Oakwell, he continued: “Valerien has done a fantastic job since he was here with a lot of wins.

“Obviously, he decides (on) his tactical staff and skills and what he brings to the team is a winning mentality and this is his biggest strength - to tell the team to believe in his philosophy.

“I think a big strength is his mentality and I am sure he was the same when he was a player and he gives us this mentality as a team and individual that we have to fight for what we achieve and have to give everything and be professional.

“This is a big strength he brings to the team and it is very useful for the team at this age and it works quite well.”