25 May 2023

Michael Duff looking for Barnsley ‘hero’ as Tykes chase Championship return

25 May 2023

Barnsley head coach Michael Duff has challenged one of his players “to step up and be the hero” in their Sky Bet League One play-off final against Sheffield Wednesday.

Wednesday will start as the bookmakers’ favourites for Monday’s Wembley showdown against their local rivals after overturning a 4-0 first-leg deficit in their thrilling semi-final win against Peterborough.

Barnsley finished fourth in the table, 10 points behind Wednesday, but backed up their 2-0 league win at Hillsborough in September with a 4-2 victory over the Owls at Oakwell in March.

Duff, who took over last summer following the club’s relegation from the Championship, said: “I bet if you look at the odds we’ll be the underdogs. It’s not me trying to create a narrative of my own, they are the facts.

“They finished on 96 points, God knows how many goals they scored, loads of clean sheets, 23-game unbeaten run and they were 4-0 down after the (semi-final) first leg.

“But they’re in a one-off game with us now and the positive is that we know we can hurt them.

“We think we know what we’re going to get and hopefully someone can step up and be the hero.”

Barnsley’s first league double over their South Yorkshire rivals since 2009 in March also halted the Owls’ club record 23-game unbeaten run.

But Duff, who will choose his starting line-up from a fully-fit squad, said that would have little bearing on Monday’s winner-takes-all encounter.

“Other than the fact that we know we can beat them,” Duff said. “You can dress it up which ever way you want. They’re older, much more experienced.

“Their players will have thousands more league appearances than we have and that might help them. It might not.

We'll enjoy the day as much as we can, but we're not going to Wembley for a day out, we're going there to win

“Our youth and naivety might help us. We won’t know until the game pans out, but we know we can hurt them.

“We also know they’re a huge club with big players, and big players, a lot of the time, step up in big moments.

“So we’ll enjoy the day as much as we can, but we’re not going to Wembley for a day out, we’re going there to win.”

Duff acknowledged significant local bragging rights were at stake for both clubs’ fans, but does not feel that will be such a big factor for the players.

“There’s no point hiding away from it,” the former Cheltenham boss added. “But we’re not going to drum it up into something it isn’t.

“It’s a game of football. It’s 22 lads running around, there will be three blokes in black annoying everybody, probably, the pitch will be green and there will be white lines.

“Obviously the local derby element adds just a little bit of spice to what already will be a brilliant game.”

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