I was concerned to hear that Stephen Croft – a popular member of staff at Barnsley FC – suffered a cardiac arrest just before the start of Saturday’s match against Burton.
Stephen is still recovering in hospital, and my thoughts are with him and his family. I wish him a speedy recovery, and would like to pay tribute to the fantastic work of the club’s medical staff and the air ambulance service in responding to the incident.
Although fans will have been no doubt disappointed that Saturday’s match had to be postponed – the club made absolutely the right decision. The calm behaviour of both sets of fans is a credit to both Barnsley and Burton.
Although Saturday was a difficult day for the club, the 2018/19 season has seen a positive start for the Reds.
There’s no denying that the end of last season was disappointing. Relegation from the Championship posed a number of challenges. Quite simply, playing in League One means less revenue from television rights; last season’s players looking to move on to pastures new; and, very often, fewer fans turning up every week to watch the match.
Relegation can be a challenge that some clubs are unable to overcome. It’s by no means uncommon to face successive relegations in two consecutive seasons.
However, that certainly does not seem to the case for Barnsley. Under the direction of new manager Daniel Stendel, we have kept the nucleus of last season’s side together – keeping some of our best players who will be forces to be reckoned with in League One.
Any worries about falling attendances have also proved unfounded. Barnsley folk are loyal to their team, and will stick with the Reds through thick and thin – which is reflected in the club selling over 8,000 season tickets for the 2018/19 season.
Clearly, Barnsley FC has tremendous strength in depth, which is being demonstrated on the pitch. I hope that the Reds will be vying for promotion at the end of the season. A particular highlight was the 4-0 win away at Rochdale, which I was delighted to be able to attend.
Barnsley is also having a great season off the field as well. I was heartened to hear about how CEO Gauthier Ganaye wrote to Chris Ryder – a Barnsley fan struggling with depression. Gauthier had a simple, but powerful message for Chris: “You have always supported us, now let us support you”.
This is closely linked to the work the club is doing alongside Barnsley Council, as part of the #AlrightPal campaign to get people talking about mental health.
You may have seen the #AlrightPal signs painted on the ground around Oakwell, which serve as a keen reminder that we can all do more to help people struggling with their mental health.
In addition, Barnsley FC made national headlines by being the first English league club to get ‘on the ball’, by providing free sanitary products at Oakwell.
‘On the Ball’ is a campaign organised by three friends who lobbied Celtic FC to introduce free sanitary products at Celtic Park – and are now enjoying great success in persuading other clubs to do the same.
Again, this has shown the club in the best possible light – one that is rooted in the local community and determined to use sport to improve the lives of fans and local people.
The club’s ethos was best summed up by Chris Ryder after receiving his letter from Gauthier: “Best football club in the world”. It’s hard to disagree with that analysis!
This article was originally published in the Barnsley Chronicle on 28 September 2018.