Alex Mowatt is relishing the prospect of a midfield battle against his predecessor as Barnsley captain Conor Hourihane when the Reds host Swansea City in the first leg of the Championship play-offs on Monday evening.
Mowatt was signed in January 2017, days after Hourihane was sold to Aston Villa having led Barnsley to promotion from League One the previous season.
Mowatt was sent off on his debut then loaned out to Oxford United but, in the last three seasons, has been one of the Reds key players.
Mowatt said: "I didn’t really feel the pressure to replace him at all. I was so young and my head was somewhere else. It’s only since I came back from my loan at Oxford that I have been fully concentrated on football and then I’ve had the best years of my career.
"He’s gone on to have an unbelievable career. I watched him play in the Premier League. His left foot is a joke. I don’t think we’re that similar apart from being both left-footed and not very quick. But it will be a good challenge against quality players like him.”
Mowatt admits playing in front of 4,500 Barnsley fans will be odd after 62 games behind closed-doors.
He told the Chronicle: "I think for everyone it will be a little bit strange to have fans in the ground. It’s been the norm not to have them for so long. But it’s great to have them back and it's good to start in front of our home fans. Hopefully they get behind us."
He added: "It’s a massive boost. It’s a shame they couldn’t be with us all season to celebrate this great season. We want to put on a show for the lucky ones who got tickets and those who are watching at home.”
Mowatt missed the final game of the league season against Norwich City with a minor groin problem but is expected to start on Monday.
"I wanted to play against Norwich but the physios and gaffer didn’t want me to play, and it was probably the right decision.”
He is delighted to be back as captain for one of the biggest games in the club’s recent history.
"It’s a massive game and leading the lads out will be great.
"We’ve put ourselves in an unbelievable position but we don’t want to stop here.
"I don’t think teams will like to play us. The three other teams in the play-offs like to play football and we can be horrible to play against.
"If you told me at the start of the season that we would be in the play-offs, I wouldn’t have believed you. You have to pinch yourself. But we have been on some great runs and deserve to be there.”