ATTEMPTING to douse late-season relegation fires by the Trent is nothing new to Barnsley full-back Dani Pinillos.
This time last year, Pinillos was part of a Nottingham Forest side who were fighting for their Championship lives and it is an unwanted case of deja vu for the Spaniard ahead of his return to the City Ground this afternoon.
On this occasion, it is the reds of Barnsley as opposed to Nottingham who are worrying about their second-tier futures and while today’s game takes on sentimental value for Pinillos, his overwhelming motivation is on doing his part, if required, to help the visitors secure a morale-boosting victory to inject some badly-needed hope into their intense survival battle.
In the fray after missing the Good Friday draw with Bristol City due to a slight injury, Pinillos is likely to receive a warm welcome from Forest supporters, with a last-gasp leveller against arch-rivals Derby County in an East Midlands derby last March ensuring that he will always remembered fondly.
In the context of Forest’s 2016-17 season, it was a priceless intervention in a campaign when the two-time European Cup winners stayed up by the skin of their teeth at the expense of Blackburn Rovers on goal difference.
It also promises to be an extremely close-run thing if Pinillos and his current side are also to survive this term. Having tasted the bitter pill of relegation earlier in his career at Spanish side Cordoba, the 25-year-old does not want a repeat prescription.
On his City Ground return, Pinillos – who made 35 appearances in two seasons at Forest – said: “I was really happy there and it was one of the best moments in my career. I have a lot of good friends and if I play the game, I will be really happy. I think it will be really special for me.
“It is an historic football club. If I am honest, I did not know they had two Champions League (European Cup wins) when I went there. But it was amazing; my first time at an English club and it was really special.
“In my first time here, in England, I was a little bit scared as I did not know how it would be for me. It was an amazing thing.
“But for me now, the most important thing is avoiding relegation. When I was there (Forest) in my last season, we were in the same situation. But we sorted it. It is always a difficult situation when you are fighting not to be relegated.”
For me, now, the most important thing is avoiding relegation. When I was there (Forest) in my last season, we were in the same situation. But we sorted it.Barnsley’s Dani Pinillos
Pinillos’s fervent desire to avoid the Championship drop for the second successive season is such that he would foresake being involved on a special afternoon for him today – and in other matches – if it meant he could ensure Barnsley would stay up.
For him, it is all about the team as opposed to self, while naturally hoping to do his bit to help the Reds in their hour of need, just as he did for Forest last season.
Pinillos, who headed to Oakwell in January, signing a two-and-a-half year deal, added: “I do not think about if I do not play a game. I just do not want to be relegated.
“Even if I do not play any more and we are not relegated. It is not for me, but all the team. We are working hard, things are difficult and we need to be together and think about the team.
“It is difficult for the fans and players if a team are relegated. When I playing in the first division in Spain, I was relegated with Cordoba and it is difficult to forget that. You must keep working.
“It was really difficult when you want to do something in your career and have a relegation, you start to think about what you did and did not do. You always want to go as far as you can and relegation is one step down.”
After Friday’s crushing late denouement which saw opponents Bristol City grab a stoppage-time point and deny Barnsley a first home win since November 4, the Reds face a big test of their mentality and character today.
An equaliser from ex-Reds loanee Josh Brownhill may have been cruel, but the evidence of much of what preceded it in a 2-2 draw with the Robins at least provided much-needed optimism.
In the context of a fraught week which saw news emerge of players holding something akin to a crisis meeting in a bid to come up with collective answers to rescue the Reds’ ailing season, a display full of desire, commitment and togetherness was heartening.
Pinillos observed: “If we keep working hard like we are, I think that the results will come and we will start to win. We just need to win one more game to have confidence about ourselves. We need to believe in ourselves. If a player does not believe in himself, he can do nothing.”
Playing down the significance of the players’ meeting and suggestions of unhappiness with some of the input of head coach Jose Morais, Pinillos added: “I think it is normal as when things are not going the way that you want, it is normal to have meetings to start talking about that and what you need to do better.
“We wanted to speak about the games and what we can do better to start to win. We believe in what the manager wants from us. It was not a meeting about tactics or anything like that. He is a good guy and we are happy with him.
“It is normal when things are bad that people start to think if we are happy with the gaffer or something like that. But I think everyone is happy with the gaffer.”
Last six games: Nottingham Forest WWDDDL; Barnsley DLLDLD.
Referee: R Jones (Merseyside).
Last time: Nottingham Forest 0 Barnsley 1, January 2, 2017; Championship.