Extra-time call that took Danny to Hillsborough

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FOOTBALL followers well remember England’s 1998 World Cup clash with Argentina in France.

Yes, the one where David Beckham was sent off after he flicked a foot at an Argentinian who went down as if he’d been chopped with an axe.

But do you remember what you did at half-time in extra-time?

John Dennis, then chairman of Barnsley, certainly does.

The phone rang at his house. It was Dave Richards, then chairman of Sheffield Wednesday.

Now what might he want at turned 10 o’clock at night in the midst of the country’s most important football match for years?

He wanted Barnsley’s manager Danny Wilson.

John recalls the detail in his book about his time at the top, and on the way there, at Barnsley ... “John Dennis: The Oakwell Years (John Dennis and Matthew Murray, Wharncliffe Books, Church Street, Barnsley).

“I’m so sorry, John; this is the call that I never wanted to make. But can we please have permission to speak to your manager, Danny Wilson?,” recalls John in the book.

The John Dennis reply?

“I responded by very succinctly suggesting that he leave me alone and that we’d talk the next day.”

He admits the call “deeply troubled” him and he was all too aware that the pull of Sheffield Wednesday would probably be too great for Danny to resist.

He then spent a sleepless night turning it all over but realising... “that we were likely to lose the best manager in the history of Barnsley football club.”

He answers the critics who said that if they didn’t want Danny to leave then they should not have informed him of Wednesday’s interest.

“But we had a gentleman’s agreement whereby I would always inform him of inquiries received from other clubs and, in return, he would let me know if unofficial approaches were made to him,” said John.

Of course, the inevitable came to pass but John reveals that the eventual compensation figure agreed of £500,000 was double what they were due under the terms of Danny’s contract.

John also reveals that in 2000 (after the departure of Dave Bassett) they were impressed after interviewing Dave Jones - now the current Wednesday boss. He was offered the job.

However, Jones was also due to meet the Wolves board (on the way out of his Wolves interview Jones bumped into Bassett who was going in). Jones plumped for Wolves.

In a book that will particularly fascinate and enlighten Barnsley followers, Dennis reveals that they once had Gordon Strachan lined up as manager and also might have had the young Martin O’Neill just before he came into league football at Wycombe.

A lifelong Barnsley fan who went to far-flung places when the away support numbered in dozens, he gives a special insight to a football club’s workings, taking fans into the inner sanctum with fascinating anecdotes.

Appropriately, his finest and most emotional day came 15 years ago this weekend, the unforgettable day Barnsley made it to the Premier League - the so-called Miracle of Oakwell and it was.

And fans can also follow the journey from there to what he terms “the dark days of administration” in 2002.

Football could do with the John Dennis’s of this world although one particular journalist might not agree. The one John ‘pinned against a wall’ after being let down!