24 March 2023

Talk is cheap – Michael Duff not getting carried away by Barnsley’s fine form

24 March 2023

Barnsley boss Michael Duff will make no bold declarations after his side blew the Sky Bet League One automatic-promotion race wide open in midweek.

The Reds halted title-chasing Sheffield Wednesday’s 23-game unbeaten league run in a thrilling 4-2 win at Oakwell live on Sky Sports on Tuesday night and catapulted themselves into top-two contention.

Barnsley, rebuilding under Duff, who they appointed in June after relegation, extended their own unbeaten run to 12 matches, which includes 10 wins.

They have climbed to within eight points of leaders Plymouth with two games in hand and trail Wednesday by six with 10 matches to play.

Duff told the PA news agency: “If we had lost on Tuesday night everybody would have been saying ‘well that’s you not getting in the top two, you’ll have to focus on the play-offs’.

“But we don’t adjust our sights to what other people are saying. I said before my first game, I don’t make predictions.

“Talk is cheap. Wasted energy. Just keep trying to win the next one. Focus on the next one and the next one. We’ll see where we are at the end of the season.”

Duff led Cheltenham to League Two promotion and then 15th in League One, their highest English Football League finish, before being tasked with turning Barnsley’s fortunes around.

Disillusioned fans lost count of the players who left Barnsley and joined in the summer after they had dropped back into the third tier.

But former Burnley defender Duff has quickly moulded a new-look team into a high-energy, winning machine.

In recent weeks they have beaten other promotion rivals Derby, Plymouth and Wycombe in a barnstorming run, culminating in their statement win over local rivals Wednesday.

“It was great for the club,” Duff said. “There’s been a lot of disruption, disconnection (with fans after relegation), a few things last season going into the summer.

“So to showcase the work that’s been done by everybody on Tuesday night, to see the reconnection and to see the place full and bouncing was great.

“That’s an accumulation of a lot of hard work over the months from lots of different people.”

Barnsley tasted defeat in six league games before the end of October, but have since lost only two, collecting 51 points from their last 21 games.

“At the start of the season we were a bit inconsistent, it was a new group of players, new coaching staff, new ideas,” he said.

“We also had a disconnection between the boardroom and fans, all that sort of stuff.

To showcase the work that's been done by everybody, to see the reconnection and to see the place full and bouncing was great

“It’s taken a bit of time, but the other night was great because it was live on TV, it showcased the club in the right light and it’s all about trying to keep that momentum.”

Duff, who won Premier League promotion three times with the Clarets, said the club’s long-term aim is to mount a sustained challenge in the Championship.

He added: “I’m not foolish enough to get ahead of myself. You can’t predict anything in football, so you stay grounded, don’t get carried away with a little bit of success.

“I’m ambitious and the club know that. They’re ambitious as well. I’m not one for making bold predictions, but at the minute we’re in a good place and we just keep cracking on.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox