Upturn in ‘family’ fortunes down to Flitcroft

GOAL hero Jacob Mellis has hailed David Flitcroft’s ‘family’ oriented approach at Barnsley and feels it has proved integral to their remarkable upturn.

Jacob Mellis
Jacob Mellis

The Reds have won eight of their 10 matches under Flitcroft’s watch in a run which has seen them not only jump out of the Championship relegation zone, after looking dead and buried at the start of 2013, but also reach the last eight of the FA Cup.

Since taking over at Oakwell, Flitcroft has spoken consistently about the players being on a journey, pinpointing the core value of a family-like togetherness as being non-negotiable if they are to achieve their goal of avoiding the drop.

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The Tykes secured a sixth straight win in all competitions for the first time since the autumn of 1980 with Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over relegation rivals Wolves.

Their sense of esprit de corps has been unquenchable since the turn of the year, with Flitcroft’s troops showing a unity of purpose on the pitch while making sacrifices off it.

The latter was shown nine days ago when Flitcroft asked every player to forsake time with their families to watch FA Cup fifth-round opponents MK Dons at Doncaster Rovers.

They also stayed overnight together in a local hotel on Monday to prepare for the vital home game with Wolves, who are now in the bottom three.

Attacking midfielder Mellis, whose decisive 73rd-minute strike, eight minutes after coming on, took the Reds’ unbeaten run to nine matches and moved them up to fifth-from-bottom in the table, said: “Flicker treats everyone like they are his son and everyone is buying into it and wants to do well for him and you can see that on the pitch.

“We obviously knew Flicker before, but he has just got everyone together and we are a real group.

“There’s no fakeness with the gaffer and we are all happy to be playing for him.

“I was happy to get the goal, but the three points was the main thing.

“Everyone here is together and wants the same thing, whether you are on the bench – as I was against Wolves – or if you are not in the squad.

“We are all pushing in the right direction.

“When people are not playing, they are not really angry about it. When you get the chance, you just do well for the team.”

Not surprisingly, Flitcroft admits his sights are firmly set upwards after taking 16 league points from the last 18 available.

Given their momentum since he took over, he is promising no let-up while mindful that a number of rival sides will suddenly be looking anxiously over their shoulders, fearful of being dragged into the relegation dogfight.

Flitcroft, whose side visit bottom club Bristol City on Saturday in another key encounter, said: “Getting out of the bottom three was the first objective I set. It was like we were on a bungee rope; we couldn’t get out of it.

“Now we are, we are certainly looking up at other teams.

“All season, you look at Peterborough and Bristol City and they have not panicked. Bristol City have got a good manager in and will get it right.

“It is the teams above, it always is (who are worrying). They start thinking they are safe around Christmas, maybe January, and settling and not getting in the tempo.

“We got in trouble at the right time, for sure, and have that momentum now and others do not. It is very difficult to catch momentum when you have lost it.

“We will just keep applying pressure to the bottom nine or 10. That is the aim.”

Following on from special home performances against Millwall and Leeds, the pumped-up Oakwell crowd were treated to another against Wanderers, with Flitcroft effusive in his praise of his side, who cast aside a poor opening which saw them concede an early goal to turn things around and triumph.

As with all their results in their recent run, it was down to a collective team ethic with any fears that their weekend cup victory at MK Dons – and the subsequent euphoria generated by their quarter-final draw with Manchester City – could side-track them on Tuesday night vanishing.

Flitcroft said: “After getting such an incredible cup tie, I had to put my feet on the ground and did not sleep too well. Sunday night I was all over the show and had the maddest night’s sleep I have ever had.

“The players were really excited about that tie.

“But we have got over that now and that’s why the Wolves win was incredibly big.

“The whole stadium and club maybe took their focus off five or 10 per cent for the game and Wolves was a massive match. But this group of players do big games.”

The only cloud on the horizon concerns the fitness of Scott Golbourne.

The defender – rated by Flitcroft as the club’s most consistent player this season – is awaiting results of a second scan on a knee injury.