Don't be a 'headless chicken' like Gazza: Michael Duff issues warning to his Barnsley FC players ahead of League One play-off final with Sheffield Wednesday

IT REMAINS one of the enduring Wembley images – for all the wrong reasons.

FA Cup final day in 1991 is chiefly remembered not for the victors on that marquee occasion in Tottenham Hotspur, but the sight of England's best player in a generation in Paul Gascoigne being stretchered off in the first half, with his hands over his face, following two awful challenges on two Nottingham Forest players.

Barnsley head coach Michael Duff remembers that moment well on a day which saw Gascoigne suffer a serious cruciate ligament injury which kept him out for most of the following season.

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It was an occasion when the pumped-up Geordie icon lost his head and a timely remainder to keep your emotions in check and keep calm on the big stage.

Michael Duff. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.Michael Duff. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
Michael Duff. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

It is something which Duff has assigned his own players with doing ahead of not just a play-off final on Monday, but also an intense South Yorkshire derby arena against the side Barnsley fans like to beat more than any other in Sheffield Wednesday.

Duff said: "You are trying to calm them down so they don't play as headless chickens. Stick to the progress of what you have done all season.

"Paul Gascoigne is probably a perfect example from 1991 hen he did his cruciates. He came out like a headless chicken because he was so emotional and in a wired state and ultimately did himself damage which we don't want."

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Duff's sentiments help to explain why he will not be giving a rabble-rousing fire-and-brimstone speech to his players ahead of kick-off in a couple of days time.

He added: "There will be no big speeches.

"You don't need an ‘any given Sunday’ speech because if the players need motivating when they are at Wembley in a play-off final in a local derby, they are in the wrong job. We will just try and keep it as normal as possible.

"Success leaves clues and the clue has been what they have been doing all season and they have one more - can you do it one more time and then, with a little bit of luck, we win the game."