Barnsley v Tranmere Rovers - Passion of Reds fans chimes with hard-working Conor Chaplin

IT was one of the emblematic moments of 2020; a year that no-one at Barnsley will ever forget – not least Conor Chaplin.

In the thick of the Reds’ post-match celebrations after he and his team-mates completed the club’s miraculous escapology act to stave off relegation at Brentford last July, footage of Chaplin’s ‘floss dance’ was one of the images of a night that will always live in the memory. It promptly went viral on social media.

As a professional, those carefree moments are what you live for and are something that money cannot buy. An explosion of joy after a job well done.

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The job that Chaplin and his team-mates are doing this season is also turning into a striking one as they hanker for more magic moments in 2021. It has the potential to be a compelling sequel.

MAGIC MOMENT: Barnsley's players celebrate their memorable victory over Brentford at Griffin Park, a result which saw them avoid relegation. Picture: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

In the bottom four when Gerhard Struber left in October, Barnsley are now on the coat-tails of the play-offs, ahead of switching focus and hopefully starting a good old-fashioned Cup run.

Given what the club have achieved in the past year, it would sit rather well.

It has been a special time for Barnsley’s players – several of whom are from the south like Chaplin, or the continent. Collective experiences have quickly developed a very special affinity with each other and their club. It feels more than a place of work.

Chaplin told The Yorkshire Post: “It is something we have created from friendships and experiences on and off the pitch with each other. When you have had a squad for this long, you do get experiences that naturally bring you closer together.

Conor Chaplin: Special affinity. Picture Bruce Rollinson

“On the pitch, there was that game at the end of last season. That whole nine games after lockdown brought us really closer together as a group of lads and friends off the pitch. This season, we can create more memories and experiences to be even stronger in the long term.

“You cannot recreate that. When it goes well, it is all plain sailing. When you are down in the dumps, you look for inspiration from each other. To get a group to come together like that... The celebrations were brilliant and it was emotional. It would not have mattered where in the world we were that night after the game.

“Brentford was amazing. I have got lots of pictures and videos, but I don’t think they are too good to show.”

Chaplin may hail from the West Sussex town of Worthing, 250 miles from Barnsley, but the industrious striker feels at home.

Former Barnsley boss Gerhard Struber, left, head celebrates with Conor Chaplin after escaping relegation to League One at Griffin Park. Picture: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

As someone who grew up with a depth of feeling for first club Portsmouth – whom he first linked up with at six – the striker appreciates the similarities in terms of what followers of both the Blues and the Reds expect.

Portsmouth and Barnsley; one an island city and the other a mining town. Both are tight-knit communities which share values and, despite some blows over the years, have retained their pride.

On the comparisons, Chaplin observed: “Probably what I love about these clubs are the fans. When you go to places like that; working-class areas, people want hard work and graft. That is what I believe in as well.

“I don’t know whether that is from my upbringing or what. It is what I believe in as a player as well, first and foremost. It is the same at both clubs.

“My family really converted into Pompey fans when I started playing. They did not really support anyone else as such, although my dad was a Leeds fan; I don’t really know why. Probably because of how good they were when he was growing up. It could not be further away where we grew up. So I don’t know why that is!”

Continuing on the theme of similarities, both Portsmouth and Barnsley share a passion for cup football and had things been different in 2008, they could have met in the Wembley showpiece.

A young Chaplin attended the celebrations after Pompey’s final win over Cardiff, with the finale of the victory parade being on Southsea Common the next day.

Amid a huge crowd, he did not see much, but it is still a time he will always recall fondly.

Chaplin, who could not get tickets for the club’s finals in 2008 or 2010, said: “The scenes were unbelievable. Portsmouth is a passionate city and football club. It was massive.

“That two to three-year period was exciting and it was something I remember quite vividly and those feelings don’t really leave you – those emotions as a young football fan.

“I went (to the parade), but I was probably still a million miles away and could not see a thing. It was jam-packed!”

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