THE grass is not always greener on the other side – as Adam Hammill knows only too well.
Those Barnsley players currently weighing up their futures – of which there are several this month – would perhaps be wise to seek the counsel of the winger, who knows that the streets of rival destinations are not invariably paved with gold.
It is almost exactly six years to the day that Hammill left Oakwell first time around for an ill-fated move to Wolves – and when it came to making a key decision regarding his future with the Reds second time around in the summer, he was not about to make the same mistake twice.
Despite offers from several other Championship clubs, including Bristol City and Reading, the Liverpudlian followed his heart and elected to stay put.
Hammill can fully empathise with the fact that a number of Reds players, whose deals expire in June and are yet to commit to the club, currently have plenty of food for thought regarding their own futures.
One in the shape of Sam Winnall recently headed for pastures new in Sheffield Wednesday, who along with Aston Villa are also at the front of the queue of Championship suitors keen to lure the Reds’ in-demand captain Conor Hourihane.
Other players are attracting significant interest too, including Marc Roberts and James Bree.
While Hammill would never offer leading advice to any player who may be faced with a decision to make, reference to his own experiences would at least provide some context. But as one of the ‘older heads’ in the dressing room, the experienced wingman is categorical upon one thing.
Namely that that the unquenchable team unity that served Barnsley so well last season is not in danger of fracturing and will stay strong, despite all manner of transfer speculation.
On impacting his advice to any players who chose to ask, Hammill, who turns 29 next week, said: “You can have a little bit of an influence and there is also management staff. But then you have got agents who may turn players’ heads – I have had it done to me in the past.
“You try and give a little bit of advice and I am kind of an old head now, which is a little bit strange. But at the end of the day, the players are their own persons with their own minds.
“I can give advice of possibly leaving too early and I said I did that last time and should not have left in the January and should have waited and seen what was going to happen towards the end of the (2010-11) season. I had regrets about leaving and that is why I had no doubts about staying in the summer.
“Sometimes, it is hard to adapt if you have a young family or are by yourself as a young man and you move miles away from home.
“It can be daunting a long distance away where you don’t see your friends and family and it can be hard to integrate if you are a little bit shy and you can tend to spend a lot of time by yourself and become bored in a way. It is all about how strong-willed you are mentally.
“Listen, speculation is bound to happen, it is the transfer window. It is exciting for the players watching deadline day. But in all seriousness, the lads have never been stronger.
“We are all in it together and we are a close-knit bunch and there are still a lot of the core from last season when we went on that unbelievable run. There is banter as usual and no heads have been turned.”
Preparation for one of Oakwell’s biggest dates in the calendar against Leeds United today has at least taken away the immediate focus away from all the conjecture about potential player outgoings at the end of a difficult week – and that will be viewed as no bad thing, certainly by Paul Heckingbottom.
It is a fixture which have thrown up plenty of drama over the years, none moreso than in the autumn of 2010 when a lad called Hammill took centre stage and bamboozled Leeds in a spellbinding showing, scoring a wonderful virtuoso goal in a 5-2 win. Anything resembling a repeat certainly would not go amiss for him.
Hammill added: “Fans still talk about it now and it is a great memory and I wouldn’t mind that again.
“I remember seeing the fans going crazy and that joy. It was a mad, mad feeling and I ran over to the corner flag with the shirt over my head.
“As soon as I took it down, I saw fans on the pitch and knew what it meant to the fans in that instant.
“Leeds United are currently having a magnificent run. They are a massive name coming onto our territory, but it is time for us to show them who is the boss.”
Hammill is the first to admit that affording himself a catalyst to his season in front of the cameras provides an extra motivation in a campaign which has been rather intermittent.
But as the old saying goes, while form is temporary, class is permanent and the steely look in the eye of Hammill when talk surfaces to some people maybe doubting him is clear and distinct.
He added: “There is no bigger game for myself.
“It has been a little bit frustrating (this season), but it is part and parcel of football. I love it when people write me off. It adds to the fuel for me and makes it even more sweeter every time I prove them wrong.
“Write me off at your peril and I will be the one who gets the last laugh always...”