Weekend Interview: Numbers still add up for Barnsley fan Patrick Cryne

Patrick Cryne, owner of Barnsley Football Club.
Patrick Cryne, owner of Barnsley Football Club.
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SUNDAYS have suddenly got a whole lot better for Patrick Cryne.

Outwardly, the Barnsley owner may seem a quietly-spoken, unassuming man who rarely gives interviews and shuns centre stage.

But that should in no way be mistaken for a lack of passion for his club with the emotional bonds – brokered at the tender age of five – impossible not to detect when in conversation with him.

In his words, the club are almost in his DNA, having celebrated, suffered and mourned with them over many, many years.

And more besides in his role as the millionaire benefactor of the Oakwell outfit, who take on Oxford United in tomorrow’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy showpiece at Wembley.

It has been some journey for the Reds this season, following a harrowing and unrelenting autumn when Barnsley equalled an unwanted club record of eight successive league losses.

The post-mortems at Cryne’s home on Sunday evenings with former head coach Lee Johnson and chief executive Ben Mansford were frank and lively. But balm has been applied since.

Barnsley are heading to Wembley, with a tantalising play-off encore in late May also being a distinct possibility.

Some turnaround.

Cryne told The Yorkshire Post: “If I was an ordinary fan, if Barnsley lost on a Saturday, then by Monday evening, I would just about be getting over it and start to anticipate the next game.

“When you are a custodian of a football club and lose, you just don’t get over it until you win again.

“When we had the eight-game run, you can imagine what my state of mind was...

“You are the custodian of other people’s dreams. You feel somehow that when you lose, you let them down.

“Whereas when you are a fan, it’s just a sense of personal grief to overcome. It is a burden being a custodian.

“But it is something you have to carry if you can.”

Those aforementioned defeats hurt like hell, but the quiet man at the Barnsley tiller, conscious of the need to show a duty of care for his club, having changed faces in the dug-out ‘midships’ on too many occasions – in his words – in recent years showed a steely resolve.

His rewards have now arrived, with Barnsley’s renaissance as spectacular as any in football, probably across Europe, let alone Britain, in the second half of this season, with tomorrow’s engagement providing some delectable icing.

Cryne added: “We had the tolerance of the fans and it wasn’t a case of me saying I am not going to sack a manager (Lee Johnson). The fans had a sense of belief in what we were trying to do.

“Football is about the results and everything is subordinate. if they are not coming, it can be a very anxious time.

“But if you believe in the potential of the players you have got, as we always did, you have to expect a corner will be turned.”

Cryne clearly lives and breathes Barnsley Football Club and always will do – whether it be the here and now or in his enduring fascination with the club’s origins and past. It is all consuming.

His pride at seeing his club stride out on the harrowed Wembley turf tomorrow will be considerable, with the altruistic side of his nature also gratified that the showpiece has served as a shot in the arm for the town and its people.

He said: “Barnsley is my heritage, my football club. Outside family, it is singularly the most important thing in my life.

“I went to my first match when I was five years old with my uncle Ernest.

“I don’t remember it, but the family tell me so.

“I was going consistently from the age of six or seven and it’s into the upper fifties of years and it’s been a long time.

“I am not going to stop now and my passion is Barnsley Football Club. It is almost in my DNA and will always be an avid fan and love the football club dearly.

“I am not the kind of person who has favourite players. I like the history of Barnsley FC so the people I revere are people like Tiverton Preedy, who founded the club and Wilf Bartrop, who played for us in the 1912 FA Cup final and died tragically at the end of the First World War.

“And people like Tommy Taylor, who was a very gifted player who left reluctantly to go to Manchester United and that decision cost him his life.

“I also love people like Ronnie Glavin, (Neil) Redfearn, (Craig) Hignett and so on.

“But I get my greatest joy from the heritage and looking at the present day and people like Conor Hourihane, who looks 
like an outstanding midfield general.”

Having taken Wembley defeats on the Reds’ last two visits – the 2008 FA Cup semi-final against Cardiff City and the Football League Division One play-off final in 2000 versus Crystal Palace – squarely on the chin, Cryne admits that he is hankering for a case of third time lucky tomorrow.

The stars have aligned for the Reds so far this year, with caretaker head coach Paul Heckingbottom taking on the baton effortlessly following Johnson’s exit to Bristol City – and a continuation at the home of football would provide a stellar moment of redemption.

Cryne said: “Hopefully we can put those adverse (Wembley) memories behind us this time.

“Wining it would be very special.

“I’m particularly proud of the players as it is a very young group who will get better in the future.

“The fact they have achieved this success at the beginning of their careers for many of them is fantastic.”

Victory would also be somewhat sweet for a Royston man in Heckingbottom, who, like Cryne, has his hometown club in his blood.

The relationship between the two Barnsley lads is straight-forward and substantial, with the smart money being on it enduring for some time yet.

Heckingbottom has taken to life in the dug-out like the proverbial duck to water with the odds of him being appointed head coach on a full-time basis this summer looking short, given Barnsley are also going strong in the race for promotion.

Cryne added: “With two Barnsley lads speaking to one another, we really get to the heart of matters because we speak frankly and honestly and there are no holds barred.

“There’s no ill feeling afterwards and there is a kind of shared joy when you have success.

“I am glad to see a Barnsley lad in that position and we have a lot of others born and bred or strongly affiliated, to play a role in how we develop young players. That’s a really good feeling.

“Paul is a committed Barnsley lad and I don’t think he is going to rush off elsewhere to take up another job. The job he has wanted all his life is right in front of him and it’s a case of letting him get on with it.”