IT’S been an invaluable year in the Barnsley hot seat for manager Keith Hill, and one which he thoroughly enjoyed despite some of the roller-coaster goings-on at Oakwell.
Hill, who was snapped up by delighted Reds chiefs from League One Rochdale 12 months ago, has spoken to the Star about his highlights of last season – his first as a boss at Championship level.
It was a second tier campaign which started brilliantly for the Reds before falling away after the turn of the year, and there were plenty of highs for Hill before some hugely frustrating lows. Hill said: “The first game at Nottingham Forest was probably a real highlight for me. I really enjoyed that one.
“The sun was out, the players were buzzing and as we walked out in that terrific stadium we came out to a packed full away end and the atmosphere was superb.
“The players were superb too and we came away with a really good result on the day.
“They were both proud moments when we beat Leeds away and then at home, but probably the game that really sticks out for me last season was the day we went to Leicester in January and beat them 2-1. Considering the contrast in squads and finances paraded on that day, it was a great effort for us to go there and beat them. That memory sticks out.
“I remember driving home in the car with Flicker [assistant boss Dave Flitcroft] and we were just so pleased with the players, the whole squad.
“In fact the whole way the squad was developing and the way we were proving to be so competitive really pleased us. We were definitely getting somewhere. However, that elation was soon checked. Just as we felt we were making real headway I got a phone call two days after the Leicester win from [director] Don Rowing to say that we’d received an offer for Ricardo Vaz Te and that Manchester United had decided to sell Danny Drinkwater. Don’t forget we’d only recently lost Jacob Butterfield to a season-ending injury, so all told it was a real blow.
“I think at the time we were above Leicester, and soon after that we’d racked up 42 points from 31 games, but given the departures of Ricardo and Danny, and Jacob’s injury, we were always going to be up against between then and the end of the season. We’re still there though, and hopefully we can repeat days like the Leicester victory a few more times next season.”
Bolton-born Hill was appointed manager last summer after a determined pursuit by Reds chiefs. During a successful spell in charge at Rochdale he won 101 and drew 59 out of 231 games in charge.
To keep Barnsley up last season with a budget that will have been a mere fraction of that available to some other Championship clubs was a superb achievement in itself.