Why Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers players must still give their all despite miserable seasons – Sue Smith

A lot gets said at this time of year about lifting yourself when you are playing for a club that has been relegated – as Barnsley were last night and Doncaster Rovers, to all intents and purposes, were on Monday – or playing for one you are going to leave in the summer, or a manager who will.

I have been in that situation and I just do not get it.

My experience was a little bit different because when I played for Doncaster Rovers Belles, we knew we were going to be relegated into the second tier before the season kicked off because the club had not met the Women’s Super League criteria.

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But that season was all about maintaining individual performances and making sure not only that you kept a high level but as vice-captain, making sure others did too – even in training.

Doncaster Rovers players have endured a tough campaign. Picture Bruce Rollinson

When relegation was confirmed it was in the back of my mind to leave and I spoke to Everton – a club with a very special place in my heart – about staying in the top division with them. But the Belles spirit was so good that season, the fans so brilliant and the debt I felt I owed them so great, I turned down the chance to play for my beloved Everton. Whether it was the right thing for my career, I am not sure, but I do not regret it one bit.

I am so glad I had that experience and would do it again.

Even though we finished bottom of the table some of the performances were pretty decent in difficult circumstances, and while you might have thought we would have fizzled out as the season went on, we stayed determined. We told ourselves everyone was against us and we were going to prove the FA wrong.

You tried not to think of it as a lost cause, just as the men must not against Burton Albion today, but it took the pressure off us.

Barnsley's players leave the pitch after defeat Peterborough at home on Monday Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

It was no big shock Crewe Alexandra won their first game after relegation from League One – it often happens because players play differently when the pressure is off or even if it is a different kind of pressure.

You can see that in the Championship with Barnsley going from last season’s play-offs to a relegation battle, and the opposite way around with Huddersfield Town. Even though they lost Valerien Ismael and his coaching staff, plus captain Alex Mowatt, I like to think if I had been a Barnsley player I would have told myself and my team-mates we had been good enough to be in the play-offs last season, we should be looking to do it again and prove people wrong once more.

As a player you think like that, but people like Callum Styles and Romal Palmer have been unable to consistently find the same levels.

I loved that Donny team and the fans who turned up every week ringing their bells, but even from a selfish point of view you should be motivated by playing for yourself.

People criticise managers and coaches for not being able to motivate players and it makes life a lot easier if you create the right environment but ultimately it has to come from within.

I hate losing a five-a-side game and I know plenty of former professionals who get annoyed by a bad game in a charity match.

If a player is going through the motions at the end of a contract, what are the clubs who want to sign them going to think?

Another factor with Doncaster was they treated me so well when I ruptured my anterior cruciate ligament on my debut.

My England contract ended during that season but they kept paying me and looking after me brilliantly, so I felt I needed to give something back.

Giving something back seems to be motivating Barry Bannan at Sheffield Wednesday. I have heard him say he feels guilty at being captain of the team relegated last season and wants to put it right. There will be others in that dressing room and Rotherham United’s thinking the same, I am sure.

If Bannan can lead Wednesday back into the Championship it will feel much sweeter even than if they had stayed up last season.

It will be a memory that lives with him all his life.

So I hope Doncaster’s players give their all today and Barnsley’s do at home to Preston North End next week.

There are no excuses.