Barnsley’s Cauley Woodrow aims to be Wembley winner and achieve Premier League dream

SOMETIMES the grass is not always greener on the other side.

Unlike a plethora of former Barnsley favourites, including Jacob Brown, Liam Lindsay, Adam Davies and Kieffer Moore – plus several others before them who sought fame and fortune away from Oakwell – Cauley Woodrow has proved a bit of an exception to the rule.

Woodrow has stayed in South Yorkshire as he approaches his peak years in the game. He is 27 in December.

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As someone who always speaks with good sense and authority, an old head on relatively young shoulders you might suggest, it is looking to be another sound decision.

On target: Cauley Woodrow celebrates scoring against suitors Cardiff City. Picture: Tony Johnson

The Barnsley striker is about to set sail on a Championship play-off mission with the Reds being three games away from docking in at the biggest domestic football league in the world, which he briefly got a taste of when he was a young player at Fulham.

Players at clubs who courted him not so long back with Premier League designs, including Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest most notably, will wistfully watch on.

The hallowed turf of Wembley potentially awaits for the Reds’ top-scorer and his team-mates.

Back in 2017-18, Woodrow was on the Cottagers’ books when they got to the Championship play-off final and beat Aston Villa.

Letting fly: Cauley Woodrow has a shot against Chelsea during the Emirates FA Cup fifth round match at Oakwell.

He made a couple of early appearances before joining Bristol City on loan and was holidaying on the Persian Gulf coast when Fulham secured promotion.

Now he could potentially be front and centre of a special story at the home of football.

Woodrow told The Yorkshire Post: “I was in Dubai on a beach somewhere I think (when Fulham were promoted).

“That year they went up, I think I played a couple of games and then went out on loan. You are not fully a part of it.

Tight-knit bunch: Barnsley players celebrate Cauley Woodrow's early goal against Millwall. Picture: Tony Johnson

“But to see what they had done – I had obviously played with all the players – it was an amazing achievement and it is definitely what we want to achieve here as a team (at Barnsley).”

It was back on October 16 that Woodrow signed a new deal with Barnsley following another bout of speculation regarding his future – earlier that month, Cardiff had seen a bid knocked back.

With the ink barely dry on that improved contract, Valerien Ismael breezed through the doors at Oakwell – exactly seven days after Woodrow had signed to be precise – and life has never quite been the same since.

Comfortable with the decision he took to commit his future to Barnsley, he is contracted until June, 2023, Woodrow added: “In this league, there are bigger clubs with bigger salaries.

Revenge mission: Cauley Woodrow grapples with Ben Cabango, of play-off opponents Swansea City, who have done the dopuble over Barnsley this season. Picture: Tony Johnson

“But what we have got going on here is a great thing and we have lots of young players who are fighting to prove something and it is an amazing place to be at.

“We have got a great group of lads. It is an easy thing to say, but we do. When you are in a team with younger players, you all want to learn.

“Whereas if you go somewhere else with older players who have been there and done it, it is a different matter and sometimes, it does not work out as well.

“All of us are enjoying working together, working hard for each other and under the manager.”

Barnsley have achieved several records this season, but it will not stop them from being handed the underdog tag as they prepare for their semi-final with Swansea City – which will, Reds fans hope, be the precursor to an appearance in a Wembley final on May 29.

The Reds will embrace that moniker, while being fortified by the knowledge that they finished in the top six on merit and have shown conclusive evidence that they can beat the best that this level has to offer.

Woodrow said: “Over the course of a season, you cannot end up where you are now through luck.

“It does not happen, it is impossible. We are a good team. People say a lot of things about us, but we are good at what we do and we will stick by that.

“We have more points than Bournemouth and they have got Premier League players so that is not luck.

“We are good at what we do. We have worked hard over the course of the season and have done unbelievably well.”

A cool finisher and a nerveless penalty-taker, Woodrow’s polished skills may just come in handy in the two games ahead for Barnsley – possibly three.

The semi pits the Reds with a Swansea side who did the double over them in the regular season.

It is the club’s second meeting in the end-of-season lottery, with the first famously seeing Barnsley win the League One play-off final on penalties in 2006 at the expense of the Swans, in Cardiff of all places.

Play-offs are often tense and tight, as that game in the Principality definitely was.

Woodrow – someone who has packed plenty into his career already – is relishing the high-pressure stakes.

It is what you play football for, after all.

He continued: “I have had a lot of experiences. When I went to Burton, we were completely written off and everyone said we were going down and I managed to go there and we stayed up. Last season, that also happened here.

“This season, we are fighting for promotion, as we were in League One. All those experiences over the years have definitely helped me and us as a group.

“We are used to playing under pressure and needing to perform and it has definitely helped us as a group and got us to where we are now.”

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