Barnsley v Millwall - Alex Mowatt has answered the call

A MIDFIELD leader in red with the full respect of his peers and the adoration of a fanbase.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson’s profile, standing in the game and decorated CV – now adorned with the stellar addition of being a title-winning leader – may comfortably surpass that of his Barnsley counterpart Alex Mowatt, but there are similarities in their stories if you look hard enough.

Like Henderson, Mowatt has transformed his career at a team in red which had appeared to be at a crossroads.

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As with Henderson, captaincy did not sit naturally with Mowatt initially, but he has grown into the role with maturity and aplomb.

Barnsley's Alex Mowatt: Leading the way. Picture: PA

The 25-year-old’s mission is a lot less grandiose than lifting silverware, but doing his bit on the pitch to lead Barnsley to Championship safety by July 22 is one that would reverberate across the South Yorkshire town and beyond and provide him with a strong sense of fulfilment.

The heartbeat of the Reds side, Mowatt has also learned plenty about the art of captaincy in lockdown due to matters away from the pitch as well.

Keeping his team-mates in the loop regarding information from the club and being busy in the group chats and lifting spirits has been part of it.

Mowatt – alongside fellow senior players Kenny Dougall and Cauley Woodrow – was in regular discussions with chief executive officer Dane Murphy and the Reds hierarchy about taking either a wage deferral or pay cut with the club looking at reducing costs to cope with the financial repercussions of Covid-19.

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson: Led side to title and career has similarities to Alex Mowatt's. Picture: PA

An agreement has not been thrashed out, but between now and the end of the season he insists all that matters as far as he and his team-mates are concerned is playing their part in what Barnsley fans hope will lead to a second momentous ‘Great Escape’ from second-tier relegation in seven years.

It is something Mowatt will be pouring all his energies into, but regardless of the success or failure of Barnsley’s mission, it is inescapable that the Yorkshireman has emerged as a leader of stature.

On his development as a captain, Mowatt, who has been busily preparing for another huge game in the Reds’ season against Millwall this afternoon, told The Yorkshire Post: “I have grown as a person in doing leadership things.

“I have not been captain for long in terms of sorting things out. It was challenging while we were in isolation to speak to everyone, but we did it and that’s the main thing.

“It was important to keep everyone in the loop and I had lots of messages to pass on and we are all in the group chat together.

“I had to speak to the lads quite often as we needed their opinion on a lot of things and I spoke to the gaffer a lot as well and passed messages on.

“I was doing a lot more things in my group chats in just speaking to the lads and things. It was difficult, but good and I have enjoyed doing it really.”

Adamant that Barnsley will not be distracted by any side-issues, Mowatt – likely to resume talks regarding his own future later this summer – added: “We are back in football and we are concentrating on that and to be fair, everything has gone quiet as we need to concentrate on the football and the main thing is us staying up.”

All hope may have looked lost in that regard in mid-February, with an Oakwell defeat to Birmingham City seeing many take the pen out of its holder in preparation to write Barnsley’s obituary, but recent evidence has suggested there might just be another chapter yet.

A run of four wins in six matches has put the Reds back in the game – in the Championship’s six-game form guide, Gerhard Struber’s side are ranked an impressive third.

That progress needs to be maintained if Barnsley are to produce an incredible finish, with Mowatt conscious of the importance of momentum.

Should safety be achieved, Barnsley’s accomplishment would stand up with any feats at the club in the modern-day era.

Mowatt is not quite sure whether it would eclipse last season’s promotion from League One, but it would be a ‘massive achievement’ all the same.

The former Leeds United player continued: “They are all finals and we have hit the ground running and that was the main thing for us.

“If we can get some momentum going and win three or four on the bounce, it will be great for us. Hopefully, with the games coming up, we can do that.

“When you win things and get promoted, everyone is buzzing and to stay up, you are buzzing, but it is not the same feeling as getting promoted.

“But we have lost a lot of main players from last season and it is a new group as well and even younger than last season, so it would be a massive achievement.”

Barnsley’s historic victory at QPR last weekend – their first win at Loftus Road since January, 1950 – has fortified their hopes of performing a remarkable act of escapology following football’s return.

It served as the best possible start for the Oakwell outfit, who – like a host of sides in the second tier – are not short of motivation in their quest to achieve their season’s aims on the pitch.

The Championship grapevine may have been awash with talk that several clubs were not particularly enamoured about a return to action – and would have preferred the season to be decided on points per game in truth – but among Barnsley’s playing squad, there was always a unanimity to play on.

Those sentiments are shared by several of Mowatt’s friends who are at second-tier rivals with rather more exalted aims than Barnsley.

The Doncaster-born midfielder added: “I have a few mates at Preston and they wanted to get started as they want to get into the play-offs and Leeds want to get promoted.

“It’s all about finishing the season. We are getting tested twice a week and feel safe.”

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