Result: Barnsley 3-0 Sunderland (EFL Championship)
Venue: Oakwell (Saturday 26th August, 3pm)
My “doing the 92” quest continued with this game at the end of the first month of action in the Football League. The Tykes of Barnsley were to welcome the relegated Sunderland to Oakwell and I reckoned there was no better time to get the ground done. So, off to the South Yorkshire town I headed.
Arriving at just after midday, having been packed in like a sardine to Sheffield before some respite was had on the “special” service, I initially headed away from the direction of Oakwell and to the town centre, which was still somewhat fresh in the memory, following my trip to nearby Athersley Recreation at the beginning of the month. However, I was looking to visit different places other than the two then, so after a quick recon of the pubs, I settled on the popular looking White Bear.
Heading inside, it became clear that this certainly was a favourite of those heading to the game. A Strongbow (£3.30-ish) was polished off in quick time, before I headed just a few doors down to Annie Murray’s, Barnsley’s Irish pub. Again, there was a good atmosphere here and some fans were taking advantage of the outside seating afforded to them on this rarest of warm, sunny days. As for me, I reckoned I should coupe this with something from a similar climate, and so plumped for a bottle of the Mexican beer Modelo, which wasn’t far removed from a Sol in taste.
Before long, it was time to head onwards and tick off the town’s second ‘Spoons. Having already visited the Joseph Bramah during the Athersley trip, a quick walk past the market saw me arriving at the Silkstone, a fairly unspectacular, run-of-the-mill offering by the chain. The few Tykes fans I spoke to in here were feeling confident in their side’s prospects today, clearly feeling the recently relegated, former Premier League side posed little threat.
After finishing the standard Punk IPA, the time was heading towards 2pm and so it was off towards the ground. Of course, it wouldn’t be one of my blogs if I’d have gone straight to the turnstiles now, would it? So a visit to the nearby Mount which seems to be the unofficial club bar for all intents and purpose, was the way to go I felt. My walk over there was somewhat eventful, as a Sunderland fan kept trying to get me to sell him my sunglasses, whilst he flashed notes out of his car window, building to an eventual top price of £30. I declined his offer.
Decked out in numerous football memorabilia, both Barnsley & England, and with the club’s cartoon dog “mascot” ‘Toby Tyke’ taking pride of place on the signage, The Mount seemed to perfect place to finish off my pre-match tour of the town. Indeed, it was packed to the rafters in here and a quick surveying of the scene at the bar led to swift service. Dark Fruits would do the job on this occasion, despite me not having as high an opinion on it as others.
After watching the closing stages of the Bournemouth-Man City game in here (bar the ending, somewhat fortunately) it was time to head over to Oakwell and grab myself a ticket for the game and I had already prepared myself for the £27 hit I was about to take. After grabbing a programme from the seller outside (£3 as standard), it was into the ground and its original 1904-vintage stand. What a beaut, though it’s a bit unfortunate the TV gantry obscures its little gable on top.
Oakwell is a nicer ground in the flesh than I was expecting. The old stand’s seating is only half covered, with the top-level being protected from the elements, whilst those in the bottom tier are left to fend for themselves. Of course, there were no issues with this today. Alongside, is the tunnel and scoreboard, though this was out of use today. Opposite is the Main Stand, a larger two-tiered construction and houses the executive boxes which, apparently, were the first offered by a Yorkshire club. The South stand sits at the Pontefract Road end and is a large, one-tier structure, while the similar North stand opposite housed the visiting fans from the East coast. An interesting note is the small “stand” located within the gap between the South and Main stands that houses executive and disabled spectators. So, that’s Oakwell and this is Barnsley FC….
Barnsley Football Club was founded in 1887 as Barnsley St. Peter’s and played in the Sheffield & District League from 1892 (as founder members) before a switch to the Midland League five years later. During a three-year stint here, the club dropped the suffix to become simply Barnsley FC and joined the Football League in 1898 – after being Midland League runners-up – and its Second Division (since becoming the club to hold the record for most seasons in the second division in its different guises winning over 1,000 games at that level in the process). 1910 saw Barnsley reach the FA Cup final, where they lost to Newcastle United after a replay, but righted this two seasons later in beating West Brom after another replayed final. This would be their only Cup success to date.
After WWI, Barnsley would miss out on a place in the expanded First Division (apparently due to Arsenal) and the Tykes were consigned to the second level of English football for a total of eight decades, despite missing out on promotion in 1922 by just a solitary goal. From then on, the next thirty or so years would see the club flitting between the Second and Third Divisions. (Relegations in 1932 & 1938 to the Division 3 North were countered by promotions in 1934 and 1939, both as champions).
After introducing the likes of Danny Blanchflower – (first 20th century league and cup double winning captain) and Tommy Taylor (who’d go on to be a “Busby Babe” before perishing in the Munich Air Disaster) – to senior English football in the years after WWII, the club would be relegated at the end of 1953 back to the Division 3 North, before promotion as Champions for a third time followed in 1955. Finding themselves back in the familiar setting of Division 2 by the time restructuring saw the regionalised Third Divisions become Divisions Three and Four, the ’58-’59 season saw the drop back to Division 3 suffered before a further drop to the bottom rung and Division 4 came in 1965. However, they’d be promoted again after a three-year stay in the bottom division.
Relegated again in 1972, a longer stay of seven seasons would be experienced by the Reds ahead of an eventual Division 3 return in 1979. Two years later, another promotion saw the club back in Division 2 after a fair time away. Here they’d stay through until the creation of the Premiership in 1992, when they’d become a Division 1 side for the first time, despite still being in the second tier. Danny Wilson would take charge during Season ’94-’95, guiding Barnsley to sixth, but the club would miss out on a play-off spot due to further restructuring.
However, two seasons later, Barnsley reached the “promised land” of the top-flight. 1997 saw the club finish as runners-up in Division 1 and with it came promotion to the Premiership after 99 years of trying to reach the top table of English football. Their stay would last just the one season though, with Wilson leaving for near rivals Sheffield Wednesday.
2000 saw the club back in the play-offs, but this failed to result in promotion, though the club did take part in the final Division 1 play-off tie to be played at the “old” Wembley. This would be as good as things would get during the “noughties”, as the Tykes would be relegated in 2002 to Division 2. Struggles with finances would affect the club too during this time, though a change in ownership would begin to give the club something of an upturn in fortunes.
2006 saw the club promoted back to Division 1 (now the Championship) through the play-offs, winning on penalties against Swansea City at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, but struggled during their first season back, eventually avoiding relegation. The following year saw the club reach the FA Cup semi-finals (after wins over Liverpool and defending winners Chelsea) for the first time since 1912, only to lose out to Cardiff City. Narrowly avoiding relegation that same season, Barnsley would eventually suffer the drop from the Championship to League 1 in 2014.
2016 saw a successful season for Barnsley end with the Reds winning the Football League Trophy (before its farcical re-invention) by defeating Oxford United 3-2 at the “new” Wembley Stadium. A month later and Barnsley would defeat Millwall at the national stadium to achieve promotion back to the Championship, where they would end last season in a respectable 14th place.
After spurning my front row seat in favour of a much better view, the game got underway with Sunderland having slightly the better of the opening exchanges, without really creating anything that Barnsley would’ve considered too concerning. But after those first fifteen minutes, the Tykes began to seize the initiative from their visitors, with first-half dangerman Adam Hammill forcing a comfortable stop out of Robbin Ruiter.
After continuing to remain on the front-foot, the hosts broke the deadlock on the half-hour, Hammill delivering from the left flank and Chelsea loanee Ike Ugbo bundled the ball past Ruiter for his first Barnsley goal. Minutes later and the lead was doubled, the Sunderland defence failed to clear their lines and the ball fell invitingly for Harvey Barnes who rocketed a rising volley beyond Ruiter and into the top of the net. It was looking as rosy for Barnsley as the shirts they were wearing. Half-Time, two-nil.
The break was spent doing little bar perusing scores from around the country, as my food trip had already been completed pre-match, a £2-ish sausage roll doing a fine job, which it damn well should for that price! Anyway, it was soon time for the players t re-emerge from the tunnel by the side of the away support, the Black Cats’ backers giving their side a good reception, despite an underwhelming first half. The Barnsley fans were after more of the same from their side.
The happier set of fans were to be those of a Barnsley persuasion, as Sunderland’s performance only diminished. James Vaughan went down far too easily as he looked for a spot-kick to give his side a lifeline, before George Moncur would put the result beyond doubt, advancing into the area prior to unleashing a fierce, rising drive that flashed beyond the Black Cats’ Dutch custodian for three-nil. This may come across as a home club-biased report due to a lack of Sunderland action, but in truth, they rarely managed to do anything of note.
Some of the travelling contingent had seen enough at this point and began to make an early exit for either the journey back North or to drown their sorrows that little bit more. Either way, they weren’t missing much from their side who looked second-best in all aspects and showed little in the way of fight, bar a late Lewis Grabban chance. This was (allegedly) not a viewpoint that looked to be off, as apparently shown by a post match incident involving Khazri and the midfielder smiling at the rightfully disappointed travelling fans on his way off. I didn’t see it myself, but I know it’s been suggested within their ranks. Anyway, full-time arrived and it remained three-nil to the Tykes.
Post-match, a quick exit uphill saw me arrive at my post-match drinking point, the Dove Inn. I did just that (if you change the pronunciation a bit) and finished off with another Strongbow, before the short walk back to Barnsley Station was undertaken, though a bit of a wrong turn saw me make my train with seconds to spare. A quick change saw me back at Manchester within the hour to sign off another trip and another of the 92. Next up, it’s the Cup!Again….
Value For Money: 5