Since Barnsley Football Club’s formation back in 1887 the side has not had it easy. Winning the FA Cup in 1912 remains the biggest moment in the club’s history and, ever since that famous win, they have had to fight the tide to keep their heads above water. Tasting the delights of the Premiership before being sent hurtling to the depths of administration just a few years later is just part and parcel of being a Tyke.
The Early Years (1887-1911)
Football first came to Barnsley, a predominantly rugby orientated area, when Barnsley St. Peters were founded in 1887. Named after a local church of the Reverend Tiverton Preedy, the side played in blue home shirts with purple/claret arm. Football had received little backing prior to the club’s formation but St. Peters were soon attracting support from a wider area and within a year of their formation were playing their games at Oakwell – the side’s ground to this day.
Barnsley St. Peters competed in the Sheffield and District League before moving to the Midland League in the latter part of the 19th century and were renamed Barnsley F.C. in 1897. The club changed their name to what we know now as the club had outgrown the local parish, having expanded their fan base, while Reverend Preedy had long since departed to take another post in London. The following season the newly renamed side finished runners-up in the Midlands League as well as also participating in the Yorkshire League. Their progress was such that, in 1898, Barnsley were voted into the Football League in the final spot, just 11 years after they were founded.
The Tykes’ experience of the Football League was somewhat fraught by financial difficulties for the first ten years and, as such, the side struggled in Division Two. The 1909-1910 season proved the most successful to date as they finished 9th in Division Two and had an unbelievable FA Cup run, which led right to the final. After victories against Blackpool, Bristol Rovers, West Bromwich Albion and Everton, the Tykes faced Newcastle in the final at Crystal Palace. Over 77,000 watched Harry Tufnell give Barnsley a deserved half time lead, which lasted up until the final minute with a controversial equaliser resulting in a replay. The replay at Goodison Park saw the First Division outfit show their authority and Newcastle ran out 2-0 victors.
The FA Cup run had brought the side to the attention of the nation but, despite this, the side disappointed in the league, finishing 19th. However, the ignominy of having to re-apply for league status was soon followed by something for the Tykes to smile about.
The FA Cup triumph (1911-1912)
A revitalised side lined up at the start of the 1911-12 season with manager Arthur Fairclough bringing in four new players. After a turbulent start to the season, the sale of Tommy Boyle to Burnley created more havoc amongst fans, who boycotted games to show their disgust. Results were mixed over the Christmas period in the league but the FA Cup soon got into flow with an away tie against fellow Division Two outfit Birmingham City. After a commendable 0-0 away draw, the Tykes won 3-0 in the replay.
Barnsley faced Leicester Fosse in the following round with George Lillycrop, hero of the first round, scoring the only goal of the game to set up a tie at Bolton Wanderers of the First Division. 4,000 fans travelled from South Yorkshire to be a part of the 34,000 strong crowd for the third round game and Barnsley sent their fans home happy, winning the game thanks to goals from Lillycrop and Leavey.
The quarter final brought a home tie against fellow Yorkshire club and cup holders, Bradford City. The highly anticipated game drew a crowd of 37,000 and, with thousands still locked outside, walls were scaled and gates smashed down as fans desperately tried to get in. After several stoppages due to fans encroaching onto the pitch, the goalless game was abandoned in the 85th minute. The next game was played at Bramall Lane. After normal time had finished 2-2, the hero for Barnsley was George Lillycrop again, who struck near the end to send the Tykes into the semis.
As league form suffered, the side focused on the cup and the semi final against Swindon Town. The match held at Stamford Bridge was a notoriously brutal encounter. With the tackles flying, Barnsley came through victorious after Philip Bratley headed home for the Tykes.
Many more league games were crammed in before the side travelled down to Crystal Palace for the final against West Bromwich Albion. The final proved to be another uncompromising game and like so many others that season it finished goalless. Barnsley won the toss to choose the venue for the replay and selected Bramall Lane.
The replay was a scrappy contest and, as the game was drawing to a close, nether side had broken the deadlock. But with just two minutes of injury time remaining, the greatest moment in Barnsley’s history took place as Harry Tufnell scored the winning goal, sparking joyous celebrations.
As well as the success Barnsley had in the FA Cup, they also managed to finish sixth in Division Two, their highest ever position, and just 12 points behind the promoted sides.
The Wars (1913-1939)
In the seasons that followed, Barnsley finished fourth and fifth before Europe transcended into disarray with the start of World War I. Staff and player changes in the ensuing turmoil resulted in an almost unrecognisable side to that which won the FA Cup just a few seasons earlier. The side pushed themselves into fourth place after an appalling start – including an opening day seven goal crushing at Derby – but, as the war gained impetus, the league was suspended.
The restart took place in 1919 and there were some major changes including the First Division being extended to 22 teams, making it likely that Barnsley would be automatically promoted. Well, that was the assumption. Instead, a ballot was called and Arsenal went up in the Tykes place – the-then Arsenal chairman later admitting to some underhand dealings.
Despite this setback, the Tykes continued in Division Two and in the 1921/22 season came a mere whisker away from promotion. After a remarkable campaign, Barnsley lost out by a single goal as Bradford City pipped them to the post on the last day of the season. The Bantams won their final game 3-0 to secure promotion at Barnsley’s expense – you couldn’t get much closer.
After this desperate failure, Barnsley languished in the Second Division throughout the 1920s yo-yoing up and down the table. Unfortunately, things got even worse in the 1930s as the club went down to Division Three after a poor 1931-32 campaign. Barnsley built an experienced side in Division Three and, by the end of the 1933-34 season, managed promotion but just four seasons later were relegated again.
Things were looking promising though at the start of the 1938/39 season. It is still widely believed that the side were on the verge of greatness before the War curtailed these dreams. An incredible season saw Barnsley end as champions with an astonishing 11 points between them and their nearest rivals whilst also picking up a joint record tally of points. Fans believed that the side that manager Angus Seed had put together would take Division Two by storm. However, the start of the War stopped the side in their tracks and the league was not reformed again for a further six years.
The Fifties (1950- 1959)
With a totally different side, the first season post-war finished with Barnsley in 14th place, although it certainly contained plenty of highlights. Seed returned to the helm and he brought the likes of non-league gem ‘Cec’ McCormack and Eddie McMorran from Leeds – who proved shrewd signings, scoring hatfuls of goals. In the early fifties the side boasted another gem in Tommy Taylor, who became a star for Manchester United and England. A record transfer fee tempted the Tykes to sell in 1953 but unfortunately he never returned from United’s ill-fated Munich trip.
The fifties was a turbulent time on the pitch with the club being relegated in 1953 only to be promoted two years later and then go back down again in 1959. Despite this poor form, some notable players served the team such as George Robledo and ‘Skinner’ Normanton.
The Depressing Sixties and Seventies (1960 – 1979)
The sixties and seventies were not happy times to be a Barnsley fan. The team seemed a shadow of their former selves and, after avoiding relegation to the Fourth Division by just one point in 1962, the following season wasn’t much of an improvement. A disappointing 18th place finish was only illuminated by two all too short cup runs.
Things only got worse and by the end of the 1964-65 season, the club had been relegated to the fourth tier of English football for the first time. It then got even worse. Despite the expectant fans who wanted an immediate return to Division Three, the club finished in its lowest ever position of 16th.
Money was pouring out of every orifice, with player sales the only possible way of balancing the books as chairman Joseph Richards fast ran out of ideas. With the club struggling to make ends meat, the 1967/68 season gave the long-suffering fans something to smile about as they were promoted as runners-up and achieved the remarkable feat of going the entire season unbeaten at Oakwell. Unfortunately, the same fans suffered relegation four seasons later in a campaign that saw the end of long serving manager Johnny Steele’s tenure.
An Amazing Transformation (1979 – 1981)
Things looked bleak at Barnsley through the mid-seventies as the club hovered in the Fourth Division. There was, however, a light at the end of the tunnel at the start of the 1978/79 season. Under the tutlegae of player-manager Allan Clarke – part of the successful Leeds United side of the seventies – a legacy was left, as he achieved two promotions in three seasons to propel Barnsley back to the Second Division for the first time in three decades.
Clarke brought with him a completely new feel to the club and finished fourth in the Fourth Division to gain promotion in his first season. With the likes of former Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock and ex-Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy in his squad, the side went from strength to strength. Astute singings such as former Leeds team-mate Norman Hunter and Ronnie Glavin for £40,000 from Celtic helped to push the side on again to a midtable finish at the end of 1979/80 season. This foundation helped the Reds to promotion the following season. Clarke left to join back up with Leeds and Hunter was immediately appointed as manager. A fantastic season of attacking football saw the Tykes finish runners-up to Charlton, playing in front of hordes of fans at Oakwell.
Re-establishment and Promotion (1982 – 1996)
The eighties and early nineties re-established Barnsley’s position as a strong Division Two side and they duly began to challenge for a place in the newly formed Premiership.
At the start of the 1995-96 season, manager Danny Wilson used the transfer market wisely to bring in a mixture of youth, experience and an international contingent. Barnsley started the season with some real gusto and equalled their best ever start to a season. Impressive performances from the likes of youngster Matty Appleby, Trinidad and Tobago international Clint Marcelle and mid-season singing John Hendrie pushed the side into a strong position come the final home game of the season. The Tykes knew a win in the Yorkshire derby against Bradford City would do enough to secure a place in the top tier of English football for the first time in their history. Barnsley dominated throughout, scoring in the first half through pre-season signing Paul Wilkinson before another, Clint Marcelle, rapped up the win sending the fans into raptures as they swarmed onto the pitch amid euphoric celebrations.
The team went on to lose their final game of the season at Oxford but the joy of promotion carried on through the summer, with the team later having an open-top parade around the town to celebrate with the fans that had endured so much over the years.
The Premiership Season (1997/98)
As record numbers of season tickets were sold, the side prepared for their first ever campaign in the Premiership, bringing in reinforcements from around the globe. International players including Welshman Darren Barnard, Slovenian captain Ales Krizan and South African international Eric Tinkler came in, as did Macedonian striker Georgi Hristov for a club record £1.5million.
The Tykes got off to a dream start in their first ever game in the top flight, taking the lead through Neil Redfearn. Two second half West Ham goals stopped Barnsley in their tracks but just four days later Danny Wilson’s side soon picked up their first win with a 1-0 away victory at Crystal Palace. After four games the side had six points but a bad run of results followed, including conceding five and six at home to Arsenal and Chelsea respectively and a 7-0 thrashing at Old Trafford.
Wilson strengthened the side further with attacker Ashley Ward and centre back Peter Markstedt. The following game saw the Tykes make the tough away trip to Anfield to face a strong Liverpool side. The defensive performance proved the catalyst for a memorable 1-0 victory for Barnsley, courtesy of an Ashley Ward goal. and heroics from goalkeeper Lars Leese.
With the Reds bottom of the league,the side picked themselves up, going on an unbeaten six game run and picking up four wins in the process. Jan Aage Fjortoft was brought in from Sheffield United during that time and went on to score both in the 2-1 win over Wimbledon and the crucial goal in a 4-3 win against Southampton. An away win at Aston Villa put the Reds in a good position, but the home game with Liverpool proved pivotal to the season. Barnsley received three red cards in a pulsating game and were unlucky to lose 3-2 to a last minute goal from a controversial free kick.
This well and truly knocked the stuffing out of Barnsley and the club never recovered from this. With only one win in the last nine games, Barnsley slipped back to Division One.
The FA Cup provided some respite for the fans and one of the major highlights of the season. Stirring wins over Premiership sides Bolton and Tottenham was followed in the fifth round by a fantastic win against Manchester United. The Tykes avenged their league thrashing earlier in the season grabbing a hard fought 1-1 draw at Old Trafford and, in the resulting replay, dumped the Red Devils out of the Cup at Oakwell, winning 3-2. Barnsley went out in the sixth round 3-1 at Newcastle to end a terrifically thrilling run and a season that will live long in the memory.
Back in Division One (1998 – 2002)
Following Barnsley’s relegation, Danny Wilson left to take the managerial post at Sheffield Wednesday and several key players also departed. The Reds were looking to bounce straight back up but ended in an unremarkable 16th place in their first season back in Division One due in part to the plethora of departures.
The 1999/00 season saw Barnsley come mightily close to a return to the Premiership as Dave Bassett took the reigns, replacing the sacked John Hendrie. Bassett was active in the transfer market throughout the season and his signings provided a platform for a promotion push. The Reds occupied fourth place at the end of the season, setting up a playoff against Birmingham City. An unbelievable 4-0 win in the first leg at St Andrews was the greatest winning margin for any away side and, despite losing 2-1 at Oakwell, the side reached the final.
Playoff fever gripped the town and 35,000 fans made their way to see the Tykes play Ipswich Town at Wembley. The Reds took the lead through Craig Hignett but Ipswich soon equalised. Barnsley had the chance to go in at half-time in the lead but Darren Barnard saw his penalty saved by Richard Wright. After the break, Ipswich grabbed two goals before Craig Hignett smashed in a penalty to make it 3-2. The Tykes came mightily close to equalising but it wasn’t meant to be, condemning them to another season in Division One.
Several influential players left the club in the summer prior to the 2000/01 season. A difficult season was made harder by the surprising departure of Bassett in December that resulted in Nigel Spackman taking the post. The team finished in a poor 16th place and things only got worse the following season.
On the opening day, Barnsley faced freshly relegated Bradford City and suffered a 4-0 defeat. This defeat set a tone for the Reds’ season and they didn’t pick up an away win until facing rock bottom Stockport on Boxing Day. A mediocre start only got worse, resulting in the sacking of Spackman with Glynn Hodges taking over as caretaker. The managerial merry-go-round continued with Steve Parkin taking over full time. Barnsley subsequently played with a newfound passion, beating Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 in a South Yorkshire derby.
A strong December saw the Tykes undefeated for 12 games until February 16th, when they lost away to Birmingham City. After this run the results went drastically downhill. Barnsley were dragged back into the mire with their away form being particularly poor. Despite a valiant effort, Barnsley needed a victory in their final home game against Norwich City to stave off relegation. However a 2-0 loss resulted in relegation to the third tier of English football for the first time in twenty years.
Division Two and Boardroom instability (2002 – 2005)
Relegation and ITV Digital’s collapse proved the catalyst as the side was placed into administration on October 3, 2002. The club had until the end of November to find a new owner and, with just ten days left before the club was due to close, the-then mayor of Barnsley, Peter Doyle, was announced as being in line to takeover. Many fans were unhappy with Doyle’s motives and some even set up the now defunct AFC Barnsley to show their antipathy.
On the field, Barnsley’s troubles matched the struggle off it. A poor start resulted in Parkin’s sacking, with Hodges once again coming in as caretaker. The side’s form continued to be mixed but they managed to prevent a second consecutive relegation with a win against Brentford in the final home game.
In the summer of 2003, the club’s sale appeared imminent on several occasions, including the proposed takeover of Californian-based businessman Sean Lewis. This resulted in the departure of Hodges, with former Stoke boss Gudjon Thordarson coming in as part of the deal. Eventually the deal was scrapped as the Football League refused to ratify it, believing it would not clear the club’s debts. Thordarson nevertheless started the season as manager, brought in several new players and the side had the best start to a season since their promotion to the Premiership. Off the pitch, former Leeds United chairman Peter Ridsdale announced in September that he had purchased the club with local businessman Patrick Cryne. However, back on the field, the side maintained hopes of an automatic promotion. Unfortunately, poor form in January and February resulted in the sacking of Thordarson, with Paul Hart being confirmed as his replacement. Hart was unable to push Barnsley into the playoffs and eventually finished in 12th after only picking up four wins since December.
Prior to the 2004-05 season, Hart started a clear out with 12 players leaving the club and a plethora of fresh faces being welcomed to South Yorkshire. After a poor start, Hart moved to sign Michael Chopra from Newcastle on-loan but the side still teetered dangerously over the relegation zone until December.
A good run of four wins and a draw helped somewhat, overshadowing yet more boardroom antics as Ridsdale stepped down on Christmas Eve, citing a conflict of interests. This resulted in ownership being transferred to board member Gordon Shepherd and Cryne staying in a prominent position at the club. The Reds’ form dipped and Hart was eventually sacked in February. Academy coach Andy Ritchie was named in charge temporarily and his Manager of the Month accolade for March was enough for him to be named fulltime manager at the end of the season. The side finished strongly and ended in 13th place.
Under Ritchie’s tutorship, the Tykes showed real quality with impressive performances and grit. Losing influential Australian international Jacob Burns at the start of March hurt the side as the Reds only secured two wins in their next 11 games and spurned several opportunities to affirm their position in the playoffs, eventually finishing fifth and just making it to the playoffs against local rivals Huddersfield Town.
Barnsley seemed resigned to another year in League One after a 1-0 defeat at Oakwell. However, over 4,000 fans cheered on their side for the away leg at the Galphram Stadium. Barnsley took the lead through a Paul Hayes penalty, only to be pegged back. Fortunately, goals from captain Paul Reid and Daniel Nardiello secured a play-off final against Swansea. In front of over 55,000 at the Millennium Stadium, the Tykes took the lead through Hayesm before the Swans went ahead. In an end-to-end encounter, Nardiello equalised from a free kick and, after extra-time, the game headed to penalties. Colgan, at fault for an earlier goal, became the hero as he saved Alan Tate’s penalty to send the Reds back into the Championship with a 4-3 penalty win.
Back in the Championship (2006 – 2007)
Much had changed since the Tykes were last in the second tier of English football – including the name – but, nevertheless, the side made a reasonably good start to the season. After eight games, Barnsley were in 13th but then things soon started to go wrong, spelling the end for manager Andy Ritchie, who was replaced by Simon Davey.
Despite only coming as caretaker, Davey helped the side to drag themselves out the relegation zone and soon earned himself a permanent contract. Form stuttered over the Christmas period but new signings came in January to strengthen all the outfield positions. The team pushed on for the rest of the season with their newfound strength, and ensured survival. Despite some big losses, Barnsley still captured a few impressive wins which helped the side to a 20th spot finish.
A new era? (2007 – 2008)
Following Barnsley’s struggle the previous season, fans and pundits alike were expecting another brave fight against relegation this season. This does not seem to be the way though. The Reds have had a very positive start to the season, surpassing expectations.
With Simon Davey at the helm and captain Brian Howard leading the side with aplomb the Tykes look set to continue performing well. Several intelligent transfers pre-season by manager Davey has helped strengthen the side into playoff contenders. Foreign players like Brazilian defender Dennis Souza, German keeper Heinz Muller and loan-singing Anderson de Silva have given the side a new feel. Wins over the likes of promotion contenders Watford and away at Southampton have given the fans something to smile about and a club to be proud of once again.
- FA Cup – Winners (1911-12), Runners-up (1909-10)
- Division 1 (now Championship) – Runners-up (1996-97)
- Division 3 (now League One) – Runners-up (1980-81)
- Division 4 (now League Two) – Runners-up (1967-68)
- Division 3 North – Winners (1933-34, 1938-39, 1954-55), Runners-up (1953-54)
- Midland League – Runners-up (1897-98)
- Sheffield League Division Two – Runners-up (1893-94)
- Most League Appearances – Barry Murphy (514, 1962 – 1978)
- Most League Goals – Ernest Hine (123, 1921 – 1938)
- Highest League Scorer in Season – ‘Cec’ McCormack (33, Football League Division Two, 1950/51)
- Record Attendance – 40,255 (v Stoke City, FA Cup Fifth Round, February 15, 1936)
- Record Transfer Fee Paid – £1,500,000 to Partizan Belgrade for Georgi Hristov (1997) and £1,500,000 to QPR for Mike Sheron (1999)
- Record Transfer Fee Received – £4,500,000 from Blackburn Rovers for Ashley Ward, December 1998
- Record League Win 9-0 (v Loughborough Town, Second Division, 28 January 1899)
- Record League Defeat – 0-9 (v Notts County, Second Division, 19 January 1927)