Darren Barnard’s 30-yard volley in the 7-1 win over Huddersfield Town is one of the most spectacular goals in Barnsley’s history but the Reds nearly had England midfielder Carlton Palmer playing instead that night.
Just two days before the derby mauling, the Wales international full-back had been in Southampton, about to move back to the Premiership with 34-year-old Palmer going in the other direction. Barnard said: “The deal fell through and I told John Hendrie (Barnsley manager) that I wanted to play against Huddersfield on the Friday. It hadn’t been my decision to leave, John wanted to freshen up the squad and I was a saleable asset. He welcomed me back with open arms.
"The game was weird, if we had been 10-0 up at half-time, it would have been fair. I hit the crossbar and the post before I scored, we had a few other chances and their ‘keeper Nico Vaesen made some great saves. We were unplayable. My goal was one of those that you hit 100 times in training and 99 go over the bar. It was a perfect moment.”
Barnard would miss a famous penalty in a play-off final in May 2000 but had a spot-kick taken off him against Huddersfield by Craig Hignett. He said: “I wanted another one and we got a penalty but Higgy begged me to take it because he was about to go off, it was his debut, and we were definitely going to win. When he missed it, most people just laughed but I was absolutely fuming.”
Barnard – who scored 36 goals in 204 Reds games – says the Huddersfield strike was his best ever but would love to see another he netted two seasons later. He said: “The one goal I scored for Barnsley which I can’t find any footage of was against Blackburn in the FA Cup at Oakwell (January 5, 2002). I scored from about 35 yards out with my right foot against Brad Friedel in the top corner. I have seen pictures of me sitting on the floor celebrating and the boys jumping on top of me, but I have never seen the goal. There was another goal I scored in the FA Cup against Spurs when I did a silly dance afterwards. I have seen people use that as a meme on Twitter which makes me laugh.”
The Blackburn goal was in Barnard’s final season at Oakwell, which ended in relegation into the third tier while the club was heading into administration. He said: “We had a new manager (Steve Parkin) come in who didn’t get on with some of the players. He had a way about him that I didn’t take to and nor did quite a few others. We didn’t like the way he wanted to play football. He encouraged players like myself, Steve Chettle and Kevin Miller to leave. I would have stayed and taken a paycut but we didn’t have a choice. It was time to move on. It didn’t help the Bosman ruling had come in and there was a glut of players available. I moved to Grimsby which wasn’t ideal. I was still living in Barnsley and doing a three-hour commute every day.”
Barnard’s first season at Oakwell had also ended in relegation but he enjoyed his time in the Premiership in 1997/98 having earlier experienced the top flight with first club Chelsea before two years at Bristol City. He said: “I signed on the Thursday before the first game then did about an hour and a half of training on the Friday then played the next day. I didn’t know hardly anyone’s name. I knew Neil Redfearn, I managed to get hold of Dave Watson’s name but, for everyone else, I was calling them ‘mate.’ But I got to know them all and it was a fantastic experience. Oakwell was packed every week. We took some batterings but we always came back and kept fighting.”
Barnard, a boyhood Liverpool fan, particularly enjoyed the 1-0 win at Anfield. He said: “We had seen Liverpool live the previous week and they won 4-0 with Michael Owen and Karl-Heinz Riedle up front. They were formidable and we were nervous. The night before the game, Danny (Wilson) took us down the road from our hotel to this little pub and said: ‘right boys, you have got half an hour. Have a drink, chill out and relax.’ Most of us had a couple of beers, some of the foreign lads sat in the corner with an orange juice. A couple of the lads had five or six beers. We were very relaxed the next day and, yes we defended for 89 minutes and Lars Leese performed heroics in goal and Peter Markstedt made a great debut, but Patrik Berger miscontrolled and Ashley Ward got the winner.”
Barnard was sent off by referee Gary Willard in return fixture in April and was then was joined by team-mates Chris Morgan and Darren Sheridan. He said: “Everyone points to the Liverpool defeat as our downfall and it is one I will never forget. I can understand why he sent me off because my leg went out a bit and Michael Owen very conveniently fell over it. He didn’t need to go down because he’s quicker than me. It was surreal because I was sitting in the dressing room thinking ‘I can’t believe I’ve done that.’ Then Chris Morgan walked in and I asked him why Danny had substituted him. Morgs pointed out he’d been sent off as well. I couldn’t believe it. We got changed and watched from the old tunnel on the halfway line. We celebrated our equaliser then saw Steve McManaman win it and Shez get sent off. One of the few times I saw Jan Aage Fjortoft make a tackle was when the fan ran onto the pitch. Myself, Shez and Morgs were invited onto Soccer AM but we declined the invitation.”
Barnard is glad he did not decline the invite to move to Oakwell. He said: “The best period of my career was between 1995 and 2001, when I was at Bristol City and then Barnsley. I have fantastic memories of Barnsley, I loved living up there and being involved in the community. We had 40 or 50 people watching us train every day, literally ten or 15 yards away. That doesn’t happen now because it’s an ‘us and them’ mentality and it is more of a business than a sport. They were great, great times.”