A DECADE ago today, Bobby Hassell, having been told he was not wanted at Barnsley, came on for John Stones then went in goal in an extraordinary 4-3 League Cup win at Rochdale.
Hassell – now the academy manager at Oakwell – had to replace Ben Alnwick between the sticks after the goalkeeper headbutted a Rochdale player in the penalty area with the Reds 2-1 up late on, having made all their substitutes.
It was one of the most remarkable of his 299 games for Barnsley, whom he had played for for eight years already.
Hassell told the Chronicle: “It stands out in my memory for a number of reasons. Keith Hill had told me the day before that I wasn’t part of his plans and he didn’t want me around the club.
“He was honest and up front with me, which is all you can ask as a human being. I have no hard feelings towards Keith. He wanted younger players and thought he could sign better players than me.
“Sheffield United wanted me but Keith wanted me to go to a different club, where I didn’t want to go. So I stayed.
“Eventually they had to go back to tried and tested Championship players like myself.”
Hassell’s first job in goal was to face a penalty, which was scored, and he conceded again in extra-time but also made some fine saves as Barnsley won due to a Chris Dagnall double.
“It was a soft sending off but, by the letter of the law, you can’t stick your head into someone’s face.
“I had played in goal all my life as a kid, including for the school, and had been a wicketkeeper in cricket.
“I took the decision upon myself. When Ben was walking off, I said ‘give me your top and gloves.’
“My children were watching a clip of it the other day. I made some sharp saves and it was pleasing. I just wanted to get the club to the next round.”
Stones – now an England regular – scored for Barnsley earlier in the match, his only goal for his hometown club who he would leave midway through that season for Everton who then sold him to Manchester City for £47.5million.
Bobby said: “It was great to see him come through and get a goal. Some senior players hate it when young players come through and take their place, but I was the opposite. I wanted someone to come through and be better than me. John Stones obviously did that.
“I didn’t think he would be a £50million player back then but I predicted he would play in the Premier League because of his temperament and ability.
“He was seen as soft when he was here, often going down with cramp like he did at Rochdale which is why I came on. But I could see he had a great mentality. He wasn’t fantastic in every game for Barnsley but you could see the potential.”
Hassell is now hoping to bring through the next generation of Reds talent, working alongside new head coach Michael Duff who has former academy coach Martin Devaney on his first team staff.
“With being in League One and having the EFL Trophy, it might enable the manager to play some of the more highly-rated academy kids. Every academy is only good as the club’s strategy and head coach, who also has to focus on winning matches and then there’s the fact we have a very young first team already. It helps that he (Duff) has come from Burnley’s academy, and obviously having Martin in there helps. I am sure some of these kids will get a chance when the timing is right. There is some top talent coming through.”