Who Are These Jobbers?
A promotion-defining clash against Barnsley under the Oakwell lights naturally evokes memories of one of Sunderland’s most famous nights.
In the freezing South Yorkshire weather, in April for some reason, before the turn of the millennium Peter Reid’s ripping red and white wizards produced a masterclass which would be the precursor to the best period in the club’s recent history.
Resplendent in dark navy, messrs Summerbee, Clark and Phillips tore open a hapless and admittedly disinterested Tykes side in front of the Sky cameras. After picking apart puny Bury on the Tuesday night, Sunderland needed a win against Barnsley to clinch the Division 1 title with seemingly a million games to spare.
While the Massive Lads Fans crammed behind the open air terrace at Oakwell, thousands more huddled around their TV screens in homes and hostelries across the country. Met by the dulcet tones of, I assume, a much slimmer Alan Brazil detailing the threat posed by Mike Sheron and eternal Sunderland bogeyman Bruce Dyer, the prospect of a record-breaking Sunderland campaign was on.
In the Easter time snow, Nicky Summerbee lashed home an opener in front of an irate home end. Lee Clark was bizarrely then shown the freedom of Oakwell to wander through a slot a second past the on-rushing Tony Bullock as Kevin Phillips managed to tear the net from its stanchions.
While the crafty Sheron pulled one back, Phillips, boomed on with a “GO ON KEV” from Reid on the touchline, slalomed through a series of Barnsley carthouses and curled in a simply divine right-footed shot into the bottom corner. He stood back, one hand cupped behind his ear, soaking in the adulation and applause from each stand. He knew it, we knew it, they knew it - he was just that damn good.
Sky proceeded to play a montage of Sunderland battering each and every jobber in that sorry division backed by Martine McCutcheon’s (that’s Tiffany from Eastenders, for the older readers among you) ‘Perfect Moment’. Another perfect moment this evening would be ever so sweet.
Yeah... you didn’t think you were coming here for Martine McCutcheon puns, did yer?
What’s The Ground Like?
There’s a real old school charm about Oakwell.
I don’t know whether its floodlights towering over each corner of the ground, the fact that ‘BARNSLEY FOOTBALL CLUB’ is emblazoned on corrugated iron or its the broken glass cemented on top of the surrounding walls, but there’s something so beautifully wholesome about this place.
One thing that is really enjoyable about Barnsley is the sizeable away allocation it allows. It means that the 4,500 Mackems can make one hell of a racket when they are packed into the North Stand tonight.
How Do I Get There?
After a week of trips to Bristol and High Wycombe, a four-hour round trip to South Yorkshire feels like an absolute cakewalk. If you’re driving take the A19 and A1(M) down to junction 47 for the M1 and follow all the way to junction 37 taking a left onto the A628 heading into Barnsley. Follow the signs for Oakwell and the ground will present itself.
Parking is available for £5 a car.
If you get lost put S71 1ET into your sat nav.
For the big dawgs taking the train, Barnsley railway station is about a 10-minute walk from Oakwell. There are plenty of connecting trains from Leeds and Sheffield and the 22.40 will get you back to the north east after the game.
A Love Supreme buses leave the Stadium of Light at 2pm with return fares priced at £25. Book your place here.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
One of the very few high points in Sunderland’s calamitous 2017/18 Championship campaign was wandering into a Barnsley pub to find a framed picture of Mick McCarthy proudly placed behind the bar and a bottle of Buckfast perched on the optics. If enjoying a pint under the watchful gaze of Big Mick is your bag then get yourself to Annie Murray’s on Market Hill.
Another of the town’s hidden gems is Arcade Alehouse in The Arcade which serves a range of excellent ales, craft beers and ciders. Alternatively, you can enjoy a delicious drop of Barnsley Bitter at The Old No 7 also on Market Hill while The Joseph Bramah is the obligatory Wetherspoons joint.
If venturing into the town centre is a little too much to bear then have a Budweiser in the Metrodome Leisure Complex next to the ground which, we can all agree, sounds terrible. The Harborough Hills WMC on Vernon Street, around a 5-minute walk from the ground, also welcomes away fans.
I’m Staying Is There Owt To Do?
As the bright lights of the big cities twinkle under the moonlight in the distance, the amount of activities to do in Barnsley on a Tuesday evening are pretty slim. D
o yourself a favour and rest your weary eyes and head back to the north east, you will appreciate your decision when 9am arrive on Wednesday.