Friday, 19 October 2012

Up against the Tykes

I have stayed in every substantial northern city from Liverpool to Newcastle and I have visited many smaller urban centres such as Carlisle, Burnley and Wigan. But I have never been to Barnsley.

What do I know about Barnsley? In my first year at university I shared a room with 'Chuffing' Keith from Barnsley, so known because of his repeated use of the word. Keith was a cycling fanatic before it became so fashionable and his racing bike was often in pieces all over the carpet.

Years later I heard horrific accounts of a Friday night in Barnsley from someone who lived there. It was very much at the heart of the Yorkshire coalfield and the end of mining hit it hard. However, I went through Barnsley on the train in the summer and it looked as if it had been spruced up quite a bit. And soon it could become an Italian owned club. I doubt whether its founders 125 years ago would have anticipated that.

Barnsley are one of a small number of clubs who have only been in the top flight for one season ever. It may be that Curbs had them in mind when he said that some clubs had treated promotion as 'having a party' and the Charlton approach would be much more serious.

We haven't played the Tykes at home much in the recent past. We beat them 3-1 in 1999/00. We drew 1-1 in 2007-8 and then suffered a humiliating 1-3 defeat in 2008/9 under Alan Pardew.

Our 2-2 draw in 1997 in front of a crowd of 9,142 erupted in a big outbreak of handbags involving 17 players in the 89th minute after Hendrie scored the equaliser, his sixth goal in three visits to The Valley. Goalkeeper Andy Petterson continued the argument with the referee and got a yellow card; Robinson used 'foul and abusive language', no doubt telling the referee to get back to Preston; and an angry Keith Jones kicked the ball away.

Manager Keith Hill managed to get Rochdale their first promotion in 36 seasons and then ninth in League One. Without him, they sank back to relative obscurity. He is used to operating on a shoestring as Barnsley play their seventh consecutive season at this level, no mean feat. His coaching ethos is based on attractive football allied to hard graft, a formula he thinks can overcome southern softies.

It's a relatively youthful side with Jacob Mellis brought in from Chelsea after letting off a smoke grenade at their training ground. They are, however, inclined to concede goals, 74 last season, finishing 21st.

Four Four Two forecast they would prop up the table at the end of the season. The Football League Paper also thought they would be relegated, but third from bottom. The Times also had them bottom. This probably means they will stay up. They are currently 19th

They have some good players. In goal, Ben Alnwick is reliable and is a very accurate kicker of the ball. Young right back John Stones is a target for bigger clubs. He loves to get forward and will be a real threat tomorrow. Scott Golbourne is a crisp passer of the ball and Stephen Dawson is tireless in the engine room. Mellis is always very lively and capable of causing some real problems. David Perkins is a midget midfielder, but he always gives his all. Former Wolves man Craig Davies can be a threat. Marlon Harewood has a questionable fitness record and made his first appearance in the 1-0 defeat at Leeds. He missed a couple of decent chances.

Coral are offering 11/10 for a Charlton win, 9/4 for a draw and 5/2 for a Barnsley win. No match is a foregone conclusion in this highly competitive division, but I am going for a 2-0 win for the Addicks.

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