Barnsley live for moment

Barnsley 2 Bradford City 0
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Around every corner, there was a cameo of sheer delight. Old men with tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces, their grandsons hanging red and white memorabilia from bridges or driving round the town, horns sounding, scarfs trailing. Barnsley was taking a huge gulp of the unfamiliar nectar known as success.

It was a different explosion of joy, almost an anachronism in these days when the media has made Manchester United a local team for everyone. This was a town, a community, embracing its own with no thoughts of shareholders or merchandising possibilities. Barnsley saluted Barnsley with no heed to the rest of the world.

"It's been a long wait, but its worth it," an ancient supporter said, risking injury to bend down to throw his arms round passing players. He looked like an octogenarian but, while he might have been alive when Barnsley last sampled triumph on this scale with their FA Cup win in 1912, he certainly could not remember it. Very few can.

After a century of trying, Barnsley had made it to England's top division, ironically at the very time it should have been hardest. How, John Dennis, the chairman, was asked, can you possibly survive next season? "We'll carry on being little old Barnsley," he replied, refusing to let the cold reality of the task ahead intrude. "The future's the future. Let's just enjoy the moment."

Dennis has sampled the bad days when Barnsley were in the Fourth Division and his father, Ernest, saved the club from bankruptcy in 1966. The club has come a long way at a time when the town has declined socio-economically. "The place has taken a few knocks, since the miners' strike. It's been difficult for people," he said.

"Even in the halcyon days of the coal industry you always had high levels of unemployment, but the people who worked in the mines were high earners and good spenders. The local authority has worked very hard to bring jobs to the town, the difference is that the jobs don't pay as well."

Can't pay, won't pay. Money is the great god of football these days but Barnsley have yet to go to the cathedral, Saturday's team costing less than the annual salary for some Premiership players. Even Dennis's profession, greengrocer, harked back to the days when football clubs were run by the butcher or the baker.

"We have been doing some planning," he said. "We would have been foolish not to have done. It's going to be difficult for us. I'm not going to make stupid statements like we're coming up, we'll show people. We have worked hard, a lot of people have contributed, and we'll have to do the same again."

On the pitch a sea of celebration was crashing on to the main stand. Shirts were swapped with Bradford City supporters who had suspended traditional derby hostility to share in what even they could feel was a special occasion. Every home player was called for and applauded; Danny Wilson, the manager, was feted like a conquering Roman general.

"It's a marvellous, marvellous day," Wilson said. "There are old men crying down there and there's an old man crying up here, too."

Wilson, who signed a three-year contract last month, had every right to his emotions. Barnsley have not only been created on the cheap but they have been built on purist lines, too. They may get mauled in the Premiership but they will win friends on their way. Even on Saturday, when tensions were high and a Yorkshire derby put an extra bite into the tackles, they passed rather than kicked their way to promotion.

Not that Bradford City succumbed like polite guests. They had priorities of their own, such as avoiding relegation, and buoyed by a series of outstanding saves from Aidan Davison they trampled all over Barnsley's nerves. Paul Wilkinson put the home team ahead after 21 minutes but when the second goal did not come anxiety rippled round Oakwell.

Barnsley began to defend too deep, possession was squandered and, when Ole Bjorn Sundgot hit the post with the whole goal gaping with 18 minutes remaining, "time stood still", according to Dennis. Clint Marcelle's dribble and goal with three minutes remaining allowed the clock to tick forward again. "We have to look to Wimbledon's example now," Wilson said. "They have to be our inspiration."

On Saturday Barnsley were an inspiration of their own.

Goals: Wilkinson (21) 1-0; Marcelle (87) 2-0.

Barnsley (4-4-2): Watson; Eaden, Moses, De Zeeuw, Thompson; Bullock (Marcelle, 68), Redfearn, Sheridan, Liddell (Shirtliff, 62); Hendrie, Wilkinson. Substitute not used: Bosancic.

Bradford City (4-4-2): Davison; Liburd, Mohan, Dreyer, Jacobs; Blake (Midgeley, 76), Pepper (Sundgot, 55), Wilder, Murray; Newell, Edhino. Substitute not used: O'Brien.

Referee: R Poulain (Huddersfield). Booking: Bradford City Newell.

Man of the match: Redfearn. Attendance: 18,605.

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