Barnsley v Huddersfield Town: Alex Mowatt’s mission to take central starring role against Town again

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WHEN Barnsley last strode out in a Yorkshire derby, Alex Mowatt was offered an enlightening perspective.

Instead of taking his place in the ‘posh seats’ at Rotherham United’s AESSEAL New York Stadium on January 28, the recently-signed Reds midfield player sat with punters in the away end.

Alex Mowatt says he is happy to have made the move from Leeds United to Barnsley (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).

Alex Mowatt says he is happy to have made the move from Leeds United to Barnsley (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).

It is an experience that he will never forget with pictures subsequently doing the rounds on social media.

The previous weekend, Mowatt was in the West Stand at Oakwell as his future club beat his then employers in Leeds United in a thrilling 3-2 televised victory.

The Doncaster-born player has also watched choice derby fare from the comfort of his own settee so far this year, checking out his former club Leeds in action at today’s opponents Huddersfield Town earlier this month.

But after watching events unfold from some differing vantage points, you could say Mowatt is glad to be back doing the day job this afternoon.

After failing to be registered on time for his Barnsley debut against the Millers just under a month ago, the 22-year-old is understandably keen to make up for lost time.

In truth, it is a recurrent theme in what has been stop-start season, quite literally.

On his contrasting recent derby experiences , Mowatt said: “I was here for the derby (with Leeds) and it was a great atmosphere.

“I wanted to go to the Rotherham game. I hoped to be involved, but it did not get done until after 12 on the Friday, so I couldn’t.

“The tickets they had left were in the away end, so I said I would go in there. A few of my mates wanted to go as well. It was good.

“The fans have been really good with me on Twitter and things like. It has all been positive.”

A January that Mowatt is hardly likely to forget in a hurry began well enough with a fine strike from distance – not for the first time in his career – in Leeds’s FA Cup victory at Cambridge United on January 9.

It ended with a nightmare dismissal on his debut for Barnsley against Wolves at Oakwell just over three weeks later.

It was a month in which Mowatt had been envisaging leaving Leeds on loan to get some game time after being used sparingly for large spells of this season.

In the event, the Yorkshireman moved permanently to Barnsley and while the transfer represented a sudden development, Mowatt is at ease with the decision.

Although given his involvement with Leeds since the age of six, he is the first to admit that leaving the club’s Thorp Arch training ground for the last time was an emotional moment.

No longer a kid and approaching his 22nd birthday – and with the considerable talents of Pablo Hernandez also blocking his first-team path at United in his preferred central role in midfield – Mowatt believes the time was right to cut his ties.

Mowatt said: “I never really thought I’d be leaving Leeds in January. I thought maybe at the end of the season or I would go out on loan for the rest of the season or something like that because I wasn’t playing. I didn’t think I would leave, but it has happened.

“My agent spoke to me and said Barnsley were interested and, in the next couple of days, I signed and I was delighted to sign.

“I was on the bench (at Leeds), getting on every now and again. But it was not really what I wanted at my age or point in my career. I think it was time to move on.

“When I left the training ground for the last time, it was a bit upsetting. I have always said since I left that I needed to do it and I think it is the best thing I have done.”

As for his lack of regular starting opportunities at Leeds this term, Mowatt remains philosophical – which is perhaps no bad thing.

On why it never truly happened for him under Garry Monk at Elland Road, he added: “I am not sure. I wasn’t playing where I wanted to play, position-wise.

“But they have got good players in there and have done well, so I can’t argue with that.

“I wouldn’t say I was not his (Monk’s) sort of player. But he just had his own player that he wanted to play in Pablo Hernandez and it is just the way it was.

“I would say I should have had more chances centrally. But it never happened and I was out wide. But these things happen in football.”

Indeed, things do happen in football, although a red card just 42 minutes into your debut is something that you can do without.

It ensured a further three-game spell on the sidelines, which ‘felt like a lifetime’ in Mowatt’s words.

But he is intent on turning the page and another choice derby goal against Huddersfield – a side whom he has cause to remember fondly – would start to erase those memories.

Mowatt’s first professional goal arrived in Leeds’ 5-1 drubbing of Town on February 1, 2014 and his 30-yard wonder strike in a 3-0 win at Huddersfield in November 2015 was shortlisted for ‘Mitre’s Football League goal of the year’ for 2015-16.

Mowatt added: “Hopefully, I can score one on Saturday as well. Derby games are always a better atmosphere and I enjoy them.

“Huddersfield are playing really well and I have watched a few games on Sky and they look really good.

“So, hopefully, we will be on top of our game. It will be good to try and knock them down.”