NICKY Eaden led his hometown club out at the old Wembley – the only man ever to do so for Barnsley – despite not starting the game.
The Hoyland man, who had captained Dave ‘Harry’ Bassett’s side for the majority of the season, hurt his hamstring in training a week before the final.
Eaden, who came off the bench in the second half, said: “I was begging Harry to start me but I knew I wouldn’t have lasted long.
“I was disappointed but, looking back, he made the right decision.
“I was gutted but, to be fair to Harry, he let me lead the team out which was a big moment for me. I’m glad I got on at the end.
“You would love to say you played in an FA Cup final at Wembley, but a Championship play-off final is probably the next best thing.
“It was a great day out and the build-up was massive. I am just proud to have been part of it.
“I think we would have been competitive in the Premiership under Harry, who would have been very wily in the transfer market. But Ipswich deserved the win on the day.”
Eaden had helped Barnsley to the top flight two years earlier under Danny Wilson.
He said: “The play-off final team wasn’t as good as the promotion side, but it was a good solid team.
“It could look like a very defensive team with me and Darren Barnard, who were full-backs, on the wings.
“But actually we played good attacking football and created a lot.”
The Wembley game proved to be Eaden’s last for Barnsley and he joined Birmingham City – who the Reds had thrashed in the play-offs to reach Wembley – later that summer.
“A couple of clubs had been in for me during the season but I turned them down because I wanted to see if I could get back up with Barnsley.
“If we had gone up, I would have stayed.
“I had spoken to Harry about a new contract.
“He was honest, he knew some big players would leave and he told me about a couple of lads he was going to bring in. I didn’t think they would get us competing at the top of the division.
“Rather than sign another three-year deal and become part of the furniture, I wanted a new challenge.”