The last time Barnsley won at Sheffield Wednesday, Valerien Ismael was in his final full season as a player.
It has been nearly 12 years since Jamal Campbell-Ryce slalomed through the Owls defence to net the wonderful only goal of the South Yorkshire derby in February 2009 – completing the double after a 2-1 win at Oakwell earlier in the season.
Those are the Reds’ only victories over their local rivals in 23 attempts across 19 years while Hillsborough – where they have won once in 16 league games with 13 defeats since 1983 – is often a graveyard for their good runs and dreams of success.
Last season, Barnsley arrived at Hillsborough on a high after promotion and an opening day win over Fulham but Cameron McGeehan gifted the hosts a second-minute goal in a 2-0 loss which began a 17-match winless run for the Reds.
Their previous visit saw Adam Reach slip while shooting and kick the ball against his own leg but it somehow looped in, before Leicester loanee Harvey Barnes – now an England international – levelled with a fine individual goal.
Even in the middle of their last flirtation with the top half of the Championship, before the good start under Ismael in recent weeks, Paul Heckingbottom’s side lost 2-0 at Hillsborough in December 2016 with an Angus MacDonald own goal and a confusing red card for Adam Hammill after it looked to have been shown to home man Sam Hutchinson. When you add in Chris Maguire’s 90th-minute winner in a 2013 game in which Emmanuel Frimpong and Jacob Mellis were sent off, it has been a horrible fixture for the Reds in recent years.
But could it be different this time?
Can a member of this young, promising squad join Campbell-Ryce, Ronnie Glavin in 1983, Glyn Riley in 1979 and George Robledo in 1946 in securing a Barnsley win at Hillsborough?
That is what Reds fans, for many of whom this is the biggest game of the season, ask themselves every time their team travels to Oakwell.
The supporters will not be able to make the short trip to S6 this time, for what could be one of the last away games behind-closed-doors, but they will be hoping from home that Ismael’s fine start continues in this crucial fixture.
There are plenty of reasons to believe, following six wins in Ismael’s first ten games and a series of impressive collective and individual displays.
Victory in the derby – potentially moving Barnsley into the Championship’s top half for the first time in nearly four years – would be talked about for years to come, give Reds fans local bragging rights, and maintain a gap between them and their struggling neighbours.
Wednesday were given a 12-point deduction for this season for breaching Financial Fair Play rules – believed to centre around the inclusion of the sale of their stadium in the accounts for the 2017/18, which was allegedly before the sale took place – but that was halved by an independent panel on appeal. Barnsley co-owner Paul Conway was one of the main voices calling for a faster punishment for the Owls, whose verdict took eight and a half months and who would have been relegated if they had been docked 12 points last season.
Wednesday sacked former Barnsley defender Garry Monk a month ago after three wins out of 11, with six goals scored – two of which were penalties. He was replaced by veteran Welsh manager Tony Pulis who is yet to win any of his six games in charge – drawing three and losing three, while seeing his side net just three goals.
This week, they lost 2-1 at Norwich City on Saturday – having been 1-0 up on 80 minutes – then lost 2-0 at Huddersfield Town on Tuesday.
If they had not been deducted the six points, the Owls would still be behind the Reds as they have collected just nine from 17 so far this season which leaves them bottom – four points from safety. They have won one of their last 12 games.
The Owls are the second lowest scorers in the division with just nine goals while they have also had the fewest shots of any side in the division.
So far they have won just one of their eight games at Hillsborough, with a 1-0 victory under Monk over high-flying Bournemouth being followed by draws with Millwall, Stoke and Reading – meaning they are unbeaten there in four.
Wednesday have several former Barnsley players. Kadeem Harris, who has been a regular starter on the wing, and current first choice goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith – both had loan spells at Barnsley in 2015, while former Oakwell youth team player Jordan Rhodes, a £10million signing for the Owls, has one goal in ten league appearances this season.
Wednesday have had five red cards this season, three more than any other side and all in the space of nine games, while three of them were in the first half. One was in a 3-0 loss at Rotherham United and Barnsley will be hoping for a similar South Yorkshire derby result.
Dom Howson, Yorkshire Live
It will be a long, old season for Wednesday.
They are on relegation form, even without the six-point deduction, with three wins from 17.
Tony Pulis hasn’t made the impact he wanted so far.
Four of his six matches have been away and they have played against several of the top ten.
The loss at Huddersfield on Tuesday was their worst performance under him and he admitted they were awful.
They have to sort out their lack of goals, they will be looking for attacking reinforcements in January which are badly needed. At the moment they don’t create enough or have enough players who can put the ball in the back of the net regularly.
They are trying to stop the rot and get to January without being cut too far adrift.
They are lacking a bit of confidence but, if they get one win, they could go on a run. Barnsley is a hugely important game, at the start of an important run because they then play Nottingham Forest and Coventry.
Tony Pulis v Valerien Ismael
Wednesday’s new manager Pulis is famous for his abrasive and direct style of football and for establishing Stoke City in the Premier League.
The 62-year-old – who has managed ten clubs including Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion in the top flight – gained his first win over Barnsley in the most recent of five attempts with a 3-1 Middlesbrough home victory in March 2018, having drawn three and lost one with Stoke.
Pulis, who played in the English lower leagues, has had a contrasting career to former Bayern Munich title winner Ismael who is far less experienced in the Championship and plays a high-pressing, counter-attack game.
Ismael admits he was shocked by Cardiff City’s direct, aerial style of play in his first away game in English football but has since learned from that 3-0 loss and his side beat Birmingham City and Wycombe Wanderers who play a similar way.
Callum Paterson v Alex Mowatt
The battle for control of midfield could be key as Barnsley cannot afford to allow Wednesday the territory and possession to put regular crosses and free-kicks into their box, while the Reds will be hoping to hurt their hosts by winning the ball and counter-attacking. Paterson is the only Wednesday player to score for them from open play at Hillsborough this season, netting two of the four in eight games there with the others being a penalty and an own goal by QPR’s Yoann Barbet who also put through his own net at Oakwell.
The Scotland international striker has an excellent record against the Reds from his time as a Cardiff City player, winning all three meetings with Barnsley and scoring each time.
But Pulis has moved him from up front into central midfield where he is set to battle against Reds captain Mowatt who also has two goals this season – both superb strikes.
They are likely to be joined by, on the home side, captain Barry Bannan and Massimo Luongo, and for the Reds Herbie Kane or Matty James.
Adam Reach v Michael Sollbauer
Left winger Reach is one of the most creative sparks in the Wednesday team and has been given a new lease of life under Pulis. The £5million signing from Middlesbrough, a direct runner with excellent crossing ability, must be tightly marshalled by right centre-back Sollbauer in partnership with the right wing-back Callum Brittain. Wednesday’s lone striker is set to be Josh Windass who scored at Oakwell in February, before Cauley Woodrow secured a 1-1 draw.
Joe Wildsmith v Jack Walton
These two were the goalkeepers in Barnsley’s squad for their 2-2 draw at Bristol City in 2015 when, due to injuries and international call-ups, Wildsmith was brought in on an emergency loan from Wednesdayand 16-year-old Walton was on the bench. Walton is now the Reds’ first choice stopper, and a strong candidate for Player of the Year so far, while Wildsmith has been between Wednesday’s sticks recently. If it is a tense and cagey derby, then the goalkeepers may have little to do, but both could play vital roles for their sides.