THERE will be a familiar face in the opposition dugout at Wembley on Monday in former Barnsley player Darren Moore.
As a centre-back, he played 76 games for the Reds between 2008 and 2010 – including two famous wins over Wednesday – near the end of a fine career which included five promotions.
He will now come up against another former defender Michael Duff who won eight promotions.
Moore had stints as manager of West Bromwich Albion then Doncaster Rovers, before taking over a Wednesday squad assembled with what is thought to be the biggest budget in the third division.
They looked like champions elect for much of the season.
In mid-March, with 12 games remaining, Wednesday were three points clear of second-placed Plymouth and five ahead of third-placed Ipswich with two games in hand on both of them.
They had broken a club record for 18 clean sheets with 16 matches still to play and then travelled to Oakwell on a 23-game unbeaten run.
But a 4-2 defeat to Barnsley was followed by a 1-0 loss at bottom club Forest Green Rovers and they did not win in seven games.
Along with fine form for Ipswich and Plymouth, the Owls’ bad run meant they were essentially out for the race for automatic promotion with two games to spare.
Although they won their final four league games, and finished third on 96 points, they were spanked 4-0 at Peterborough United in the first leg of their play-off semi-final.
But they produced the biggest comeback in play-off history in the second leg, winning 4-0 in normal time, thanks to a leveller in the eighth minute of stoppages, then recovering from going 5-4 down to equalise again and win on penalties.
They will now come up against a side who have not come from behind to win all season – with Barnsley’s three points from losing positions the fewest in English professional football this season.
Wednesday won the League Cup at the old Wembley in 1991 but have not won there since, losing the final of that competition and the FA Cup in 1993 before they tumbled out of the top flight in 2000.
Their first play-off experience was a 4-2 extra-time win over Hartlepool in Cardiff in the 2005 League One play-off final, having beaten Brentford in the semi-final.
They then played in the Championship play-offs two seasons in a row as they spent big to reach the top flight, but lost the final to Hull City in 2016 and the semi on penalties to Huddersfield Town a year later.
They were relegated in 2021 having been deducted six points related to the sale of their stadium, then lost in the League One play-off semi-finals to Sunderland.
They have faced Barnsley 79 times – winning 25, drawing 17 and losing 37.
This is surely the most high-stakes meeting of the clubs, given the venue and prize.
They met in the Premiership in the 1997/98 season but most of the more recent derbies have been relegation battles.