Gladiators ready, says defiant Hill ahead of derby fight

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Keith Hill has called on his Barnsley players to be gladiators ahead of today’s crucial South Yorkshire derby with Sheffield Wednesday as they seek to end their own torrid streak of 10 Championship matches without a win.

The Barnsley chief, whose managerial future has come under the microscope in recent weeks, is relishing today’s white-hot televised encounter and wants his troops to embrace the challenge head on.

Hill, who has revealed that the Owls’ star winger Michail Antonio was at the top of his list of summer targets before he plumped for Hillsborough, said: “I used to love playing in these situations. Men have to be men, no question about that.

“But there has to be an intelligence to the energy, desire and commitment. We want players to accept the responsibility of rising to the challenge.

“There are a lot of people who pretend they are hard and up for the fight.

“When actually the fight breaks out, they are hiding under the pool table.

“I am not looking for brave trainers, but brave performers and they will be – no question about that because I trust the players 100 per cent.

“It is about showing bravery in front of people.

“It will be gladiatorial and will be superb; I cannot wait to sample the atmosphere.”

Hill admits he has been surprised by the Owls’ toils this term and feels they have suffered from the ultra-competitive nature of the Championship, which he has labelled as a ‘Premiership Two’.

Of the Owls’ struggles, he added: “I am really surprised and I think Dave Jones is. I think their ambition was to maybe do what Southampton did.

“But they have found it tough in the Championship and have to adjust their sights, quite rightly so because of the impact of what for me is Premiership Two.

“That can halt you. They have found those expectations difficult to handle on the pitch.”

Reds midfielder Stephen Dawson has admitted the team have not been good enough in recent games – despite earning a 2-2 draw last time out at big-spending Leicester City. They have not won since beating Charlton 1-0 on October 20.

“It hasn’t been good enough and we’ve been really hurting,” said the 27-year-old.

“We’d let a lot of people down with our performance at Watford last week but we know we’re a good side.”

The Reds crashed to a 4-1 loss against the Hornets before holding the Foxes to a draw.

“If we can repeat that level of performance then hopefully we can start to turn things around and push up the league

“This point has helped us get some of our belief back and sets us up nicely for the derby on Saturday.

“It doesn’t matter who we play now, the position we’re in means that every game is massive for us,” he added.

“If we can repeat that level of performance, then hopefully we can start to turn things around and push up the league.”