Adam Hammill believes tomorrow’s day out at Wembley will be reward for Barnsley’s long-suffering supporters.
The Reds have had little to cheer in recent years, and the season started poorly with the Tykes bottom of League One and facing a relegation battle in November.
But the return to Oakwell of former Huddersfield Town winger Hammill – the 28-year-old’s third stint in South Yorkshire – has coincided with an amazing upturn in results.
After drawing 1-1 at home to Sheffield United on November 28, Barnsley were bottom of the table with 18 points from 20 games.
Since then they have collected 44 points in just 19 games to stand two points outside of the play-off spots and have hopes of gate-crashing the top six.
Hammill’s first game was a 2-1 win over York City in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – he netted the winner – and Barnsley’s cup progress has been a catalyst for their league revival.
“The fans deserve a bit of silverware, they have stuck with the lads through thick and thin this year,” said Liverpudlian Hammill.
“When I first came in, it was a different scenario; we were wanting to get the cup games out of the way so we could concentrate on the league and climb the table.
“The JPT has been a catalyst for Barnsley this season. I played in my first game for Barnsley in the competition, I remember it like it was yesterday.
“I managed to get an assist and, thankfully, the winning goal, which was in spectacular style.
“It was my first game in four months and I was tiring towards the end, but managed to get through it.
“It’s been a great competition for us this year, it’s given us confidence and helped us with our league form. Both the competitions have gone hand-in-hand with each other.
“Now we are looking to get to Wembley twice this year,” added Hammill, with a nod towards the League One play-off final in May.
“Scoring the winner (tomorrow would be the perfect ending to a fairytale story. I am looking forward to the game.
“But I am not too bothered who scores as long as we win.
“Sunday could be a career highlight, but hopefully the next time at Wembley will be a few months later and the play-off final. That’s what we are aiming towards, progressing to reach the Championship.
“It’s a young squad, but one full of talent.”
Hammill admits he made a mistake in leaving Oakwell in 2011 for the chance of Premier League football with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Five years later he hopes to repay the club’s supporters, who have welcomed him back with open arms.
“I am comfortable here, get on great with the fans and staff, my team-mates,” he said.
“I said to the staff when I signed that I felt I left too early last time, and I feel I owe the fans a Wembley visit. Now we are here we can’t wait for it.
“Obviously, now it would be even better to go and win the Trophy, then go on a run in the league to seal our play-off place.”