Barnsley. It’s one of them words you can’t help but say in a Yorkshire accent. It’s the nether region of the area, the deepest part where I imagine not being of Yorkshire blood is an offence to them. I remember my last trip to Barnsley, a famous, title-clinching day which highlighted all that is good and ghastly about football fandom.
Firstly, the antics of Wolves fans wasn’t good. Any opportunity to pitch invade was taken and it spoiled what was eventually a glorious day to be of Gold and Black blood. This clearly riled the Barnsley faithful and the retribution was felt by my family. As we were walking back to the car, amongst a swathe of Wolves and Barnsley fans, a rogue Barnsley fan set upon my brother, whacked him round the back of his head and darted into the nearest pub. It was an odd situation. My brother and I were 16 and my parents were obviously shocked at the situation too. We were surrounded by loads of fans who witnessed it, but the message was ‘just ignore it.’ It left an indelible mark on me. My immediate thought was that, as the only Asians in the vicinity it was a clear racially-motivated attack, something I’ve never experienced as a football fan before or since. It made me wonder what would’ve happened in Wolverhampton and I imagine the culprit would have been chased out of town. It wasn’t necessarily the attack that gave me the ill feeling towards the area but the comment to ‘ignore it’ really shook me. So sorry Barnsley fans, but any vitriol I spouted this morning had a lot to do with this.
Moving on to the football, it was nice to get back to some league action after the FA Cup action from last weekend. I wasn’t at the game but managed to catch some of the action via a stream.
There’s always a tendency to over-analyse games of football. Winning doesn’t always allow that. There’s always that adage that you learn more in defeat than in victory, which rings true. So what of a draw? The way it looked to me, Barnsley did a good job of putting us under pressure and generally stifling our game. It’s a testament to us that many Barnsley fans saw one of their team’s better performances, yet still didn’t really look like winning the game. We weren’t anywhere near our best, but didn’t look like losing the game either. This odd, No Man’s Land of the gulf between us and the rest of the Championship is exactly that – there’s not much to be taken from it.
We may not have been at our best, but who came closest to scoring? Two disallowed goals, a shot against the bar and Jota somehow missing from a yard out tell a story where the result could have been entirely different. It says that no matter how well teams perform against us, if we get one or two things right in a game we will take 3 points. This is the kind of invincibility that surrounds the club right now. From the fans to the players to the management there is an impregnable attitude from top to bottom. 0-0 at Barnsley? Brush it off. FFP? You what mate? £32m on Andre Silva? Wolves ay we.
The fact is this result doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean Leo Bonatini needs a rest. It doesn’t mean Ruben Neves’ influence is waning. It doesn’t mean Cavaleiro should start ahead of Costa. What it is, is another point towards reaching the Premier League. It’s another game out of the way. See this post will probably sound incredibly arrogant, but we have 10 points that prove to us exactly what we are – at least 10 points better than the rest of the league. It’s no coincidence that every manager we come across is happy to declare as such an exceptional team. That is not normal for the Championship. The self-styled ‘anybody can beat anybody’ league. Cardiff, QPR and Sheffield United fans can point to their victories against us but I can now say we were only getting into our stride at the time.
Witness the way we went down to 10 men twice in recent weeks and still managed to impose ourselves on games. We’ve become a Swiss Army Knife of a football team, always evolving with an answer to every situation. That’s whether it be a defensive or offensive situation. If we can’t win, we sure as hell do not lose and I’d bet you get some decent odds on us going unbeaten for the rest of the season.
So Wolves fans you can look at it one of two ways – we’re 2 points closer to the chasing pack, or we’re 10 points ahead of everyone else. Either way – mind the gap.