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Barnsley: How football paled into insignificance at Oakwell

When the yellow helicopter circled above Oakwell and landed on the pitch, it became apparent to everyone just how irrelevant football was.  

This was no longer going to be about watching 22 men kick a ball around, for the fans in the stadium it had suddenly become about watching medics desperately try a to save a man's life.

The crew from the Yorkshire Air Ambulance were called to take Barnsley staff member Stephen Croft to hospital after he suffered a heart attack by the side of the pitch moments before kick-off.

With sheets put up around the matchday volunteer and the players taken off the pitch, it soon became clear that Mr Croft was seriously ill.

It was a sickening experience and the game was rightly called off not long after the ambulance airlifted him to Sheffield's Northern General Hospital, shortly before 3.45pm.

By that point nobody was in the mood for football, not least the Burton players, who had alerted the medical staff to the incident. It later emerged that the prompt response of those players had kept Mr Croft alive.

He remained in a serious but stable condition in hospital on Saturday night and his family thanked the quick responders.

“The family of Stephen Croft would like to sincerely thank the Burton players and both clubs officials for their rapid response to Stephen’s collapse,” they said in a statement.

“He is now stable but in a poorly condition in hospital at Sheffield Northern General. Without their rapid response, he would not be here now.

“It goes without saying we can all be proud of our ambulance services including the air ambulance, who we all couldn’t thank enough.”

The decision to postpone the game was met with applause by the Oakwell crowd as the gravity of the situation became clear.

“The family would like to thank both sets of fans for their dignity and understanding,” the statement added.

“This sort of incident brings out the best in people and that can be seen today in the stands and on the pitch at Oakwell. They are a credit to both teams.”

In a week where Burton boss Nigel Clough marked the 14th anniversary of his famous father's death, he knew that some things are more important.

“First and foremost, everyone at Burton Albion hopes the gentleman is okay,” he said.

“And, in the scheme of it, football doesn't matter.”