Barnsley v Millwall: Adam Hammill returns to complete rebuilding process

THE rich tapestry of Wembley history is threaded through with many memorable comebacks.

ON WAY BACK: Barnsleys Adam Hammill celebrates with Lloyd Isgrove after reaching the play-off final. Pictures: Jonathan Gawthorpe

On a team level, think of Blackpool’s remarkable FA Cup recovery against Bolton Wanderers, which saw them rally after being 3-1 behind with 20 minutes to go to win 4-3 in the fabled ‘Matthews Final’ of 1953.

Then, there was Everton’s riposte after being two goals down in the 1966 FA Cup showpiece to win 3-2, although Sheffield Wednesday fans will not want to be reminded of that – especially on this weekend, of all weekends.

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As for modern times, what about Manchester City’s Lazarus-like response after being 2-0 down going into stoppage-time against Gillingham in the 1999 Second Division play-off final?

Barnsley caretaker manager Paul Heckingbottom ( Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).

Plenty of endearing individual stories have also frequented the stage and for Barnsley’s Adam Hammill, his own redemption will be complete if he plays a leading role en route to what he hopes will be the Reds’ return to the Championship tomorrow.

The winger scored a dazzling strike in the club’s 3-2 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy triumph over Oxford United at Wembley on April 3, but still has one mission left before his footballing resurgence is complete.

It will arrive if Barnsley prevail by tomorrow tea-time, 12 months on from his career being at a crossroads.

On the periphery at previous club Huddersfield Town, the Liverpudlian’s footballing future – at the age of 27 – looked bleak, further reinforced at the start of the autumn when he was released by the West Yorkshire club.

Adam Hammill, centre, with Ashley Fletcher, left, and Conor Hourihane after Barnsley's Johnstone's Paint Trophy triumph (Picture: Tony Johnson).

Issues off the pitch had also clouded matters in recent years, with Hammill, by his own admission, having his problems in the past – most notably after pleading guilty in November, 2012 to a charge of assault in his home city of Liverpool, which saw him receive a 12-week jail sentence suspended for 12 months.

But brick by brick, his life, both personally and professionally, has been reconstructed.

The arrival of daughter Isabelle early last year and a new-found status as a family man dovetailed neatly with fruitful work with life coach Brian McGready.

Then came his break back at the place where he has felt most at home on the football field in Oakwell.

Barnsley caretaker manager Paul Heckingbottom ( Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).

Now to complete the rehabilitation.

Hammill, who linked up with Barnsley for a second spell in November, said: “Sunday will be a proud moment for me and my family. Sometimes you have to experience the tough times to appreciate the good times again.

“It could have gone either way, to be honest. I could have sat and been down in the dumps and made the wrong life choices.

“I have done that (before) in my career and it is no way to go for me and I have had some experiences which have been tough.

Adam Hammill, centre, with Ashley Fletcher, left, and Conor Hourihane after Barnsley's Johnstone's Paint Trophy triumph (Picture: Tony Johnson).

“But since I have had my missus, baby and the right people around me, I have been guided in the right direction.

“It drives me on every day to see how far I have come. I would not have been able to do it without the support network of my family and friends, who kept me focused on getting to the top of my game again, which I feel like I am close to doing.

“I used the three months I had away from the game (in the autumn) to refocus, recharge my energies and assess myself and where I wanted to be in a year.

“I kept myself active and was doing boxing three or four times a week and had a personal trainer and a life coach who was setting my targets and keeping me focused.

“I set myself targets and goals, which from afar might have been unrealistic. But I believed in myability and got a lot stronger mentally and personally a lot fitter.

“At the end of the season, I have achieved all of them apart from one.”

Things have rapidly come together for Hammill, whose partner is expecting their second baby – a boy – in August, when Barnsley hope to be striding out as a Championship club.

Hammill will resolve his future shortly, having put talks regarding a new deal at Oakwell, where his contract finishes next month, on hold while he focuses on the job in hand.

But if goodwill and depth of feeling means anything, then Barnsley have a definite edge over rivals wishing to secure the services of Hammill, who has proved a talisman for the club’s remarkable seasonal transformation.

Hammill said: “I have spoken to the club and any other teams who have contacted me and said I am not discussing my future until after the last kick of the season.

“I don’t want anything to get in front of my focus, which is to get Barnsley in the Championship where I believe they rightly deserve to be.

“Every player wants to test themselves at the highest possible level. We deserve this opportunity and Sunday is a massive game, but we go into it confident.

“When I came in, I gelled straight away with the lads. There’s no big-time Charlies and everyone is down to earth.

“We have a lot of banter, but we know when to put that aside and when the hard work starts.

“It is a club who have always been close to my heart. There’s always been a unique bond between me and the fans. So when I had the opportunity to come back in November, it was a no-brainer.

“I said then we were in a false predicament because of the talent of the squad and that we just needed a bit of experience and rub of the green. Eventually we have got that and went on two or three unbeaten runs to carry us onto Sunday.

“The greatest feeling for me at Wembley was being able to take my daughter and parade her on the pitch and share that moment. It would be nice to do it again.”