Jon Parkin is pleased he can open the batting for Darfield Cricket Club tomorrow safe in the knowledge that his hometown football club Barnsley do not need to win at another of his old teams Preston North End to reach the play-offs.

The Darfield man – who began his career with the Reds then went on to star for Preston – is now a successful podcaster while playing amateur cricket.

The ex-striker – who played more than 500 games in a 20-year career – has been following Valerien Ismael’s Barnsley side closely and was thrilled that they secured a place in the Championship’s top six this week with two games remaining.

Parkin said: “It’s a relief for everyone after they have been so close.

“I can imagine the Reading fans are spewing and thinking: ‘how have Barnsley got in instead of us?’

“But Barnsley deserve to be there.

“It’s just madness, really. Whatever happens this season, at the end of it we will sit down and think: what on Earth’s just happened?

“They stayed up on a technicality last season then didn’t start this season great but it’s been a meteoric rise.

“They are just efficient, hard-working and organised.

“The manager has made an unbelievable impact.

“With this substitution malarky that he does (regularly making five changes including the entire front three in one change), I would have been raging if he took me off every game after 56 minutes. But it’s working so nobody can complain.

“With how they are playing, I would back them against anyone in the play-offs.

“It’s a lottery, but I don’t think anyone would fancy playing Barnsley.

“I think fans of other clubs want us to go up because it gives them hope.

“If they got promoted, that could set the club up for the next decade at least.”

Parkin was watching in in 1997 when Barnsley reached the top flight for the only time then was a youth player in 2000 when they lost the play-off final at Wembley, which he attended.

“We’ve only been there once and everyone still speaks about it now.

“I was only about 15 but the whole town was a totally different place – that’s what it means to people.

“It would be massive for the town.

“You have got the away stand full every week so fans will stop in hotels, go out in the town.

“Hopefully we will fully come out of lockdown by then.

“It’s been hard for the town but this could be the perfect thing to give everyone a big lift in terms of morale and financially for businesses.”

Preston – for whom Parkin scored 31 goals in 109 games between 2008 and 2011 – are in mid-table, having sacked his former Oakwell club-mate Alex Neil last month.

Parkin said: “Alex got potted.

“Preston are a mid-table Championship club, who won’t be in the promotion or relegation battles unless they have an outrageously good or bad season.

“There’s not a lot riding on the game.

“I think Barnsley should keep playing their full strength team and, if they get injuries, that’s just bad luck.

“They have played 44 games so far and it’s only another two.”

Parkin played cricket for Darfield on and off throughout his footballing career but, now he has retired from professional sport, he is a regular in the South Yorkshire League.

He smashed 87 not out on the first day of the season earlier this month.

“The first game went well but the next two haven’t gone well with a duck and then eight. I have gone from hero to zero very quickly. I love the atmosphere and the craic. It’s not too serious and I just enjoy playing.”

Parkin is also part of the Undr The Cosh podcast with his former Preston team-mate Chris Brown. He said: “It’s just getting bigger and bigger. It has taken off like we never thought it would.

“We have a live tour coming up with 15 dates. It’s keeping me busy.

“Some episodes have had 90,000 views or listens which is unbelievable.”