Joe Joyce’s professional debut brought a 7-0 loss and a trip down a mine as punishment but it was the start of a 12-year stint at Barnsley which saw him make 388 appearances. 

Then a teenager who had been persuaded by Reds coach Barry Murphy to turn down a place at university to give professional football a chance, the defender came off the bench in the hammering at Reading which was the Oakwell club’s last game of the 1970s. It was also the final game in the playing career of Allan Clarke who stopped being player/manager at that point to focus on coaching, while he also took the players down Woolley Colliery mine the following Monday. 

Joyce, who is now the director of the academy at Premier League club Newcastle United, said: “It has been a standing joke over the years that I went on when it was 0-0.  That is funny but not true. But I did come on believing we could still win when I should have been thinking about damage limitation.  That’s something I learned from.

"If you suffer such a big defeat in your first game, it can be really hard to get over.  But luckily I had a lot of support and encouragement from people like Barry Murphy and Norman Rimmington.  “There was something about Reading games for me because I scored against them twice later on. 

“The trip down the mine is also something I’ll never forget.  Allan did it to show us what most of the supporters did all week to have the money to watch us play.  It was definitely a big shock to all of us and gave us more motivation.”

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The following season, Joyce became a first team regular as Clarke’s successor Norman Hunter took Barnsley into the Second Division where they would remain for the rest of his spell at the club.  He was part of the legendary team in the early 1980s which also featured Mick McCarthy, Ronnie Glavin, Ian Banks, Trevor Aylott and Derrick Parker.  

“Without a doubt it was the best team I played in. We had international players like Ian Evans and Ronnie Glavin and players who went on to the top like Mick and some really good players who could have gone to a higher level.  Norman Hunter and Norman Rimmington brought it all together, as well as Ian Evans who was player/coach.  They wanted us to play an attractive style of football and we did it well, especially in the 1981/82 season. 

“It’s frustrating that we never made it to the top flight because we were good enough as a team.  Perhaps a bit more investment in the team might have got us there but the club wasn’t in the position to compete financially.” 

Asked for highlights of his Oakwell spell, Joyce said: “The one that always springs to mind is the draw at Liverpool (in the League Cup in 1982).  Just to go up against the European champions and bring them back to Oakwell was special.  The circumstances of the game with the fog on the M62 and the Barnsley fans arriving throughout the game then celebrating at the end. It was a big, big result for us and a great occasion. 

"I wasn’t a prolific goal-scorer so every one of them is a highlight.  The day Bobby Collins asked me to captain the team was a real stand-out moment.  We played cup ties against Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton which were great occasions.”

Joyce barely played in his final two seasons at the club due to ankle problems, then left in 1991.  He said: “I had been there for more than ten years and the club granted me a testimonial.  “We brought back the majority of the team from the early 80s to play Manchester United.  I have a fantastic picture of Norman Hunter and Norman Rimmington on the bench.  They have massive smiles on their faces so they are probably laughing at one of my passes.

“I really enjoyed my whole spell at Barnsley. The early 1980s were the good times then the mid-80s were tough with the miners’ strike but the supporters kept coming and the community spirit was still there.  They were formative years for me. I came in at 18 and didn’t know what football was about.  But I played under people like Allan Clarke, Norman Hunter and Norman Rimmington.  “They shape your mind, your beliefs and your values.  I would like to think I am able to pass on a lot of that to the players I coach now and my own sons as well.”