VALERIEN Ismael has compared leading his Barnsley team in front of fans for the first time to his first date with his wife and expects returning supporters to have a ‘massive impact’ on Monday.
A total of 4,528 spectators will attend the Reds’ play-off game against Swansea City from 8.15pm on Monday, after both English and Welsh governments approved the return of fans.
Ismael told the Chronicle: “It will be a great feeling for me to see the fans for the first time in the stadium.
“It’s like your first date with your wife or your man. You are nervous, you have to prepare a lot but you are looking forward to it. 4,500 is a big jump from zero.
“Our fans can see the team in the stadium, see the energy that the guys give and support them after all the joy they gave them all season. We need that connection, we need the energy from the stands to transfer onto the pitch. We are one, we are all together. It is a reward for finishing in the top six that we play in front of our fans this season.
“It could be an advantange to be at home first because, after one year without fans, it will be another situation for both teams and the referee.
“Our fans could have a massive impact on the game.”
Barnsley Supporters’ Trust board member Ben Lockwood added: “That moment walking into Oakwell is going to be sheer ecstasy. It will be emotional for a lot of people. It has been a really really tough year, with the pandemic and people being on furlough or fighting for their businesses. This is the first real sign of getting back to normal because going to Oakwell is a big part of our routine.
“I think everyone will be behind the players 100 per cent. It’s one of the greatest seasons in Barnsley’s history so the mood will be nothing but positive.
“We all have to try to be that 12th man and give the team that extra edge.
“I can see all the fans who are there on Monday night giving the players and staff a huge standing ovation after the game no matter what happens.”
Season ticket holders for 2020/21, of which there are roughly 7,800 this season, were invited to enter a ballot on Tuesday and were due to find out if they were successful by yesterday afternoon.
The West Stand will not be open for fans, who will be spread throughout the other three stands. Tickets were priced at £25 for adults. Swansea are making their tickets for the second leg free.
Lockwood said: “Pricing at Oakwell is always reasonable.
“Our matchday prices have always been among the best in the division.
“For those 10,000 fans who have invested in season tickets for next year, if the guys get through to the Premier League, it will be the best value for money season ticket in all of football.”