ANDREAS WINKLER hails from Germany, but experiencing a ‘pitmen’s derby’ is nothing new to the Barnsley assistant head coach.
Winkler has spent much of his career in the North Rhine-Westphalia region where the Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke is considered to be one of the most fierce derbies around – not just in his homeland.
This particular derby is known locally as Revier, the colloquial form of the term Bergbaurevier – meaning mining area.
The pits that dominated the landscape across Barnsley and Doncaster have gone, but the emotional attachment to the coal industry still pervades in both South Yorkshire towns.
In the sporting realm, derbies between Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers have thankfully not been consigned to history and Winkler is eager to sample his first experience of this particular rivalry tomorrow afternoon between two sides who can be enthused by events so far in 2018-19.
Winkler said: “I am from Essen and if you watch Schalke versus Dortmund you think it is one of the biggest derbies in the world.
“My favourite derby memory is actually when I was 19 and played for Bayern Munich (second team) and Munich 1860 in the third league. But it was a good derby and it was everything in the city and special for fans of 1860. You know if you win it can take you on a flight through the whole year.
“You have lots of derbies in England and I know it means a lot for the fans and us and we want to go on a winning run.
“It is the same build-up in Germany. The players are talking about it in the dressing room although right now we are looking forward to every match. It is cold outside and better to have a match than train.
“We have to take the leash off the boys and let them play and show their best performance. It would be the perfect situation if we won and went to Sunderland.”
The portents are set fair for an engrossing derby tomorrow with the third-placed hosts in outstanding form. They are seeking their fourth successive league win and proudly boast a 15-match unbeaten run at Oakwell in all competitions, which stretches back to mid-March.
Play-off candidates Rovers, for their part, arrive on the back of a 7-0 FA Cup routing of Chorley, mindful that a win at Barnsley would cut the gap between the pair to just three points.
Barnsley’s sense of well-being has been augmented by the news that key midfielder Alex Mowatt, who hails from Doncaster, has signed a new deal.
But despite plenty going the Reds’ way of late, Winkler is anxious to avoid a twist in the table.
He observed: “There is a lot of competition in the squad and we have three (successive) clean sheets in the league.
“Everything is good and fine, but we know we have to be humble and look forward to a South Yorkshire derby, which will be a tough match.
“It is very important for our supporters and the club. We have to show our best performance.
“Doncaster have scored seven goals in their past two games and a really good offense and good football plan.”
Meanwhile, Winkler believes that Mowatt’s new deal, which will run until the summer of 2020, with the club retaining an option for a further year, is just reward for the adaptability of the midfielder, who has bought into the gegenpressing style of football preached by the Reds’ coaching staff and is making himself indispensable in the process.
“He is a very good midfielder with good distribution and high energy. He has adapted to our style of football really well,” said Winkler.
“In the beginning we told every player they would get their chance. He was on loan (at Oxford United) and nobody really had him in their line-up, but he took his chance very well.
“We know what we can get from him and he improves every match. He has two goals and a lot of assists and interceptions. He is very quick in the head and (Barnsley) like intelligent players like him for our style of football.”