THE title of South Yorkshire’s Most Watchable Team has, I may respectfully suggest, been handed over.
Sean O’Driscoll’s Doncaster Rovers were, by common consent, accepted as the team in this region whose brand of football earned the most favourable reviews amongst friend, foe and neutrals alike and was the most enjoyable to watch.
Rovers are changing now - and how - and may I suggest that this particular mantle appears to have been handed over to Barnsley.
I’ve just had my third Tuesday night visit to Oakwell - a ground I’ve always enjoyed going to across the years for a variety of reasons.
Indeed, I recall taking my future wife there to a game against Newport County. Yep, I certainly knew how to treat a girl!
She quickly picked up on the Barnsley followers’ disdain for the figure of authority in the middle.
“Do they always boo the referee off?” she asked. It was a fella from the North East called Ken Redfearn and next day in the Sunday People his mark was 4 out of 10.
Funny what you remember. Anyway, I digress.
In the space of my three visits, the manager, Keith Hill, has got the fans turned round and going with him, his team and the way they are playing.
When the Reds boss talks - and he’s always well worth a listen - he sounds as if he’s got a blocked nose. Probably reminds us of those kids at school who seemed to have permanently blocked noses.
Well, he might have had more than a blocked nose a few weeks ago because he had a few words to say about the fans - not a great deal of them too complimentary.
Coming up was a home game against Burnley. There was a strangely muted atmosphere. The fans (many fiercely critical early season) were just sitting there, seemingly waiting to grumble.
Barnsley won and played some good stuff too.
Next time I showed up was against Hull City. The fans were more animiated, perhaps a decent following from Hull plus a Yorkshire derby helped rouse them a bit more.
Anyway, it was a cracking game (best I’ve seen anywhere this season). They certainly enjoyed the win and what they saw. Was something stirring?
Now word, good or bad, travels pretty quickly i’ Barnsley. The merits of last Saturday’s amazing 4-3 win at Peterborough had zoomed pretty fast too.
There was a whole new mood on the terraces on Tuesday night. You sensed the fans are embracing the style and philosophy of Hill’s way and enjoying his team’s football. Yes. helps if you win.
But one suspects the fans can see how Hill and his sidekick, David Flitcroft, want them to play and they’re enjoying it.
What I’ve seen is the sort you’d recommend to a pal. “Get off to Oakwell, they’re playing some good stuff, you’ll enjoy it.”
They get the chance to show themselves to a wider audience tomorrow teatime with their home game live on Sky (hope that doesn’t put the speck on them!)
When Danny Wilson took Barnsley up to the Premier League “It was just like watching Brazil”.
This version has a way to go but there was a lovely twist on the theme this week.
It came from leading South Yorkshire football writer Mike Morgan in Tuesday’s after-match media conference.
He suggested to the Barnsley boss it might be termed ... “just like watching Braz-Hill”. Like it!