Omens, omens. The last time Barnsley won the FA Cup, it was a leap year, a big year for China on the international stage (it became a republic), a Democrat challenger beat a Republican incumbent in a US presidential election, and Barnsley beat West Bromwich Albion in the final. That was all in 1912, but yesterday's FA Cup semi-final draw set the stage for history to repeat itself.
Barnsley were rewarded for Saturday's giant-killing heroics against Chelsea with a semi-final against Championship rivals Cardiff, while West Bromwich, the weekend conquerors of Bristol Rovers, will meet Portsmouth, the only Premier League team remaining in the competition, and as such, the bookies' favourites. Both semi-finals will be played at Wembley Stadium on the weekend of 5-6 April.
In a curious twist of fate, West Bromwich Albion and Portsmouth can also claim omens in their favour. The last time that pair met in the Cup was in 1968, in the fifth round. West Bromwich won 2-1 and went on to win the trophy. They have not lifted it since. But Pompey too can look back to their only victory in the tournament, in 1939, and find among their Cup scalps that season – West Bromwich, beaten 2-0 in the fourth round.
This year's semi-final line-up ensures a winner from outside the "big four" of Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea for the first time since 1995.
Barnsley's meeting with Cardiff, who last won the Cup in 1927, is given added spice because their manager, Simon Davey, hails from Swansea. "We've got to be confident [of reaching the final] after beating Liverpool and Chelsea," he said. "Being a Swansea lad, it'll always be nice to put Cardiff out. I'm sure there'll be a lot of Swansea fans cheering me on."
Barnsley's goalkeeper, Luke Steele, greeted the draw with some relief because he is on loan at Oakwell from West Bromwich and would not have been able to face his parent club if the sides had been drawn in the last four.
"I was a little bit nervous beforehand but the draw was perfect and I'm really looking forward to it," he said. He insisted the prospect of missing the final if Barnsley and West Bromwich both progress that far is not something of concern. "I've just got to forget about it," he said.
Steele, 23, is only on a one-month loan at Oakwell but is hoping to tie up a deal until the end of the season "in the next few days".
Cardiff's manager, Dave Jones, said: "We've got a tough one ... we'll know each other inside out. Hopefully, we'll come out on top but Simon will be thinking the same. Anybody you play in our division is a tough battle. They've come off the back of two fantastic victories, so won't fear anyone."
FA Cup semi-final draw
Barnsley v Cardiff City
West Bromwich Albion v Portsmouth
(Ties to be played at Wembley, 5-6 April)