How Barnsley, Huddersfield Town, Middlesbrough and Hull City can beat the drop

THE parallels are there for all to see.

A day to remember: Huddersfield Town and Barnsley fans celebrate after hearing the Peterborough result which kept both clubs safe.

This time seven years ago, the bottom of the Championship made for painful viewing with three Yorkshire sides in Huddersfield Town, Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley bang in trouble.

Fast-forward to today and the Terriers, the Reds, Middlesbrough and Hull City find themselves firmly in the relegation mire – with Wednesday not exactly sleeping easy either amid fears of a punitive points deduction from the Football League.

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How all and sundry will be praying that there is a happy outcome come early May, just as there famously was at the end of that 2012-13 season when a final-day game between two White Rose rivals went down in folklore.

THUMBS UP: Barnsley manager David Flitcroft signals to the fans as both sets of supporters, left, celebrate survival together at the John Smith’s Stadium in 2013, leaving Peterborough chief Duncan Ferguson, right, to face the drop with a record number of points. Pictures: Mark Bickerdike

Then manager at Barnsley, David Flitcroft will remember the events of May 4, 2013 at Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium for as long as he lives.

The game ended 2-2 with both Town and Reds fans celebrating at the end amid a mass ‘love-in’ and hearty cries of ‘Yorkshire, Yorkshire’, with a dramatic late twist at Crystal Palace meaning that Peterborough United were the fall guys and destined for League One along with Wolves and Bristol City – despite accumulating 54 points.

It remains the highest total by a relegated team in Championship history.

On the same day, there were celebrations for Wednesday – who went into the final day with a chance of going down if results went against them. They secured safety with a 2-0 win over Boro, whom the Owls ironically meet on the last day of the 2019-20 Championship campaign on May 2.

TOUGH TEST: Huddersfield Town manager Danny Cowley, right, with brother and assistant manager Nicky, left. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

For Flitcroft, now assistant manager at home-town club Bolton, events at Huddersfield completed a miraculous ‘Great Escape’ mission which began in mid-January – when he was handed the full-time post at Oakwell after Terry Butcher and Sean O’Driscoll had turned down the position.

After fearing for his future early in the new year, Flitcroft was bestowed with one of his outstanding moments in the game less than four months on.

Given the current parlous predicament for his former club and at least three other Yorkshire sides, the Lancastrian is better qualified than most to speak about what is required to survive.

For Flitcroft, togetherness in the playing squad and around the club is the first pre-requisite amid times which can be turbulent and testing. Being able to handle adversity in the run-in is key.

FREEFALL: Hull City manager Grant McCann must try and stop the rot for the Tigers. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

He told The Yorkshire Post: “I remember after we lost 6-0 at home to Charlton (on April 13, 2013). The fans stayed behind and gave us a round of applause.

“I was thinking: ‘Wow, we are united and this is a club that wants to do this together. We are all in the same boat’ and we could feel that.

“Everyone had fallen in love with the group of players and believed the impossible could happen. That galvanised our spirits.

“I remember the ‘Three Little Birds Don’t Worry About A Thing’ song and it was all built towards getting everyone on board and seeing where it took us. We all wanted the same thing and nobody who had a different agenda.

BIG ASK: Barnsley's head coach Gerhard Struber. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“Patrick (Cryne) supported me with everything. I asked him for a stay for the players in a hotel for two days to do some mental resilience work and he would do it. He knew all I was asking was to help us get three points.

“Another important facet that comes into the equation is mentality and cranking up the pressure on those around you. And if you don’t win, don’t lose. Draws can be as cherished as wins.”

Flitcroft, whose side drew five of their final seven fixtures, winning just one, added: “I remember the last-minute equaliser at Cardiff. I just remember saying as a manager: ‘Put pressure on the teams above us’.

“We weren’t down and out and I felt if we could apply enough mental pressure, others would be looking over their shoulders. That was the important thing – always keep looking upwards and don’t look down into the trapdoor. I said that loads of times to the players.

“We took the games on with a brave 3-5-2 system like Sheffield United now and it allowed us to play Jacob Mellis and Jimmy O’Brien in the hole and really go after teams and put the pressure back on.”

Togetherness, mentality and tactical adventure all played their part in Barnsley’s absorbing crusade. But so did fear.

It was a time when a squad of players who had largely come up from the lower leagues were forced to contemplate heading back from whence they came.

There was also the grim realisation that players and club staff could lose their jobs amid the financial fall-out of relegation.

“It is about mentality, but also momentum and belief,” continued Flitcroft.

“I had players who wanted to take injections to get out and play and they were playing with injuries. The players did everything they could to be Championship players.

“I remember a lot of players had been up from League One and League Two and I remember saying that they had worked so hard to be Championship players and sacrificed so much that in one relegation, they could be heading back in the wrong direction again after working so hard for this opportunity. That it how I sold it to the players.”