Owls coach Wilkinson is torn between two pals

Barnsley's Paul Wilkinson celebrates after scoring against Bradford City at the Oakwell Ground today (Sat). Photo by Paul Barker/PA. See PA Story SOCCER Barnsley.

Barnsley's Paul Wilkinson celebrates after scoring against Bradford City at the Oakwell Ground today (Sat). Photo by Paul Barker/PA. See PA Story SOCCER Barnsley.

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TODAY’S promotion showdown at Wembley has revived some happy memories for Wednesday coach Paul Wilkinson.

His goals helped Danny Wilson’s Barnsley side reach the Premier League in 1997.

Wilkinson also made a similarly vital contribution to Middlesbrough’s promotion earlier in that decade.

Going up with the Owls, who have made a statement by signing former England goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, was the latest highlight for the 47-year-old former centre- forward who is a coach and scout in Dave Jones’ backroom team.

Although he played under Wilson at Oakwell he has sympathies lying in both camps as Sheffield United and Huddersfield clash today.

“That was a great season when Barnsley went up,” recalls the man who scored in 2-0 win at Bradford which sealed the Reds’ promotion.

“Barnsley had not been expected to get anywhere near the Premier League. But it was a special time, a special moment, and it was Danny’s first job, so it was special for him as well. We had a really good time, a good squad, and the atmosphere in the club was fantastic.

“Promotion with Wednesday has felt just as good.”

Now, as two teams outdone by the Owls get to grips today, Wilkinson sees Wilson and a former Barnsley teammate, Chris Morgan, in the Blades camp, and friendly links to Huddersfield: “Andy Rhodes’s lad plays for them, and I know Simon Grayson and Glynn Snodin (Huddersfield manager and coach).

“I’m keeping an open mind about it. I just think it will be a very close, tough game, with the odd goal settling it either way.”

Wednesday coach Neil Thompson was among Wilkinson’s team-mates in the 1996-97 Barnsley side, whose promotion feat won Wilson the LMA Manager of the Year award.

Wilkinson scored a goal that took Middlesbrough up with a win against Wolves into the top flight on the last day of the 1991-92 season.

He also played for Grimsby, Everton, Forest, Watford, Millwall and Northampton in his career.

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