Cauley Woodrow looking for Barnsley to hold nerve again in testing Championship return

THE town of Barnsley may be forever synonymous with the coal industry, but its football team were rather more worthy of receiving commendations for their services to steel during 2018-19.

Cauley Woodrow. Picture Bruce Rollinson

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The Reds’ iron-clad defence – who boasted the best goals against record in the EFL last term – and peerless league form at Oakwell where Daniel Stendel’s side went unbeaten throughout an entire season was testament to their innate sense of resolve.

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But for striker Cauley Woodrow, it was the team’s strong mentality to withstand fierce pressure from Portsmouth and Sunderland and clinch automatic promotion which set them apart from their contemporaries, in the final analysis.

That same sense of durability and steadfastness are qualities that Barnsley are likely to require in abundance again to continue their successful evolution in a testing 2019-20.

The likelihood is that they will have to do it without some of their leading lights from last term with goalkeeper Adam Davies expected to be officially confirmed as a Stoke City player shortly and Liam Lindsay expected to join him in the Potteries.

Replacements will have to be found but there will be defiance in a unified dressing room, should outsiders feel inclined to write off Barnsley’s prospects at an early juncture.

Woodrow told The Yorkshire Post: “It is going to be tough and we will be playing some good teams. But if we keep up the performances that we produced (last season), I am sure we will be fine.

“Me and Cam (Cameron McGeehan) were saying that we held our nerve. It was hard as there were two massive clubs in Portsmouth and Sunderland and they missed out and we beat them to it. It just shows the mentality and personality of the group.

“We are a young squad, so to hold our nerve and get the job done shows real maturity.

“Teams who get promoted do not play well all of the time, but get the job done – and we did that.

“I remember a couple of years ago when the lads got promoted when it was around Christmas (2016) and I was at Fulham at the time. Barnsley were flying and it just shows what can happen when you do get promoted.”

For Woodrow, Barnsley’s promotion was made all the more gratifying by the personal adversity which he overcame at the beginning of his Oakwell career, a time which rubbed salt into open wounds after a difficult 2018.

A serious hamstring injury suffered in his first training session with the Reds after joining from Fulham at the end of the summer, initially on a half-season loan before the deal was made permanent, meant that home supporters did not catch their first glimpse of the Hemel Hempstead-born forward in competitive action until November.

To say that Woodrow made up for lost time is an understatement – with a haul of 19 goals between November 3 and season’s end bearing ample testament to that in a season which ended in him signing a contract extension.

Woodrow, who will be entrusted with firing the goals to help Barnsley consolidate in the second tier alongside Kieffer Moore, added: “I could not believe it when I came. I was thinking that I had got a fresh start and a new opportunity. Then before I knew it, I was injured.

“I had never pulled a muscle in my whole career and then I pulled my hamstring straightaway.

“It was a bad time. But I knew that once I got fit – and if I worked hard to get fit – I knew I would be able to make an impact on the team and show what I can do. Thankfully, I managed to do that and scored goals and helped the team get promotion.

“This is obviously one of the best moments in my professional career so far. Getting promoted is something that not a lot of footballers can do.

“You can go your whole career without winning anything or a promotion. But this will stay with you for the rest of your life and I am just delighted for the team as everyone worked so hard all season and reached this goal and achieved it together.

“It is fantastic for Barnsley to be back in the Championship.”

Returning to the Championship at the first time of asking also vindicated Woodrow’s decision to join in the process, with the 24-year-old one of several in red who have unfinished business at that level.

Stressing that his move north never felt a gamble, he said: “No it did not. Before I came, the message from the club to me was: ‘We need to get promoted and will get promoted with this squad.’

“I wanted to be a part of that and I said in my first interview that I wanted to get promotion and that was the only goal I had. So I did not really have any doubts in my mind. I believed that we would and believed it when I came here and we did.

“I played 35 games in League One and did well and scored goals and I can take the confidence into the new season.

“Hopefully, that is the same for all of the lads. Everyone has played a lot of games and we are all young and are looking to push on.”