It has been quite the story for Callum Styles since joining the Reds back in August 2018.
The diminutive midfielder, touted as one of the hottest prospects in the Football League, arrived from Bury as an 18-year-old before being loaned back to Gigg Lane for the first half of our 2018/19 campaign.
To say that he has had an eventful career at Barnsley would be somewhat of an understatement with promotion, last season’s incredible survival and this term’s unbelievable play-off push an indication of how far he and the club have come in three years.
“There’s not been a dull campaign,” he grinned as we sat in the Oakwell boot room. “Coming in halfway through the season to get promoted to the Championship was something I’d never done because it was early on in my career and I cherished that moment because I’d never played in the Championship before.
“To survive like we did last season was just out of this world. No one thought we could ever do it and we achieved the unachievable, which is crazy, but we managed to pull through.
“Ever since then, we’ve kicked on and we’re where we are today and we just have to give it everything because this opportunity may never come around again.”
Our first hurdle to overcome for this end of season finale is Swansea City, who travel to Oakwell on Monday evening for the first leg of our Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final first leg.
Styles believes that he and his teammates can draw on their experience from the previous campaign – that remarkable recovery as we survived in the dying stages at Griffin Park, where he, too, played a crucial role.
“It’s obviously a flip side,” discussed the 21-year-old. “We’re going for promotion and not fighting relegation, but it’s the same mentality where you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.
“Even though it’s not the same scenario, it’s the same type of situation where all the pressure is in that one game and it can either make you crumble or make you go on and achieve great things.
“If we can take what happened at the end of last season into these games, knowing that if we fight every minute of the game, give everything and run over the opponent, then we’ve got a hell of a chance.”
With just three defeats in 21 league games, the Reds have been utterly sensational in the second half of this wonderful campaign.
It has been an incredible adventure and Styles insists that he never doubted the ability of his teammates, even when the odds were against us last season.
“I’m a big believer in our ability as a team, but I didn’t think we’d be where we are today,” he admitted. “I dreamed we would be – I hoped we would be. I knew we’d finish the season strong, but I didn’t think we’d finish it this strong and finishing fifth is just testament to all of our hard work – players, staff and everyone at the club.
“You just have to take it in your stride, but we’re here to do the business.”
Swansea travel to Oakwell having lost six of their last 11 games of the regulation season, squandering a golden opportunity at securing automatic promotion having gone from level on points with Watford to 10 points behind following four consecutive defeats.
Form and momentum is often crucial when you get to this stage, and we ended the campaign with a fine performance against Norwich City to set us up nicely for our play-off push.
“There’s two games to give everything and then that’s it – you’re either through to the final or out,” continued Styles. “So I think form does come into it because you can bring momentum into the play-offs and have a good team spirit and togetherness, but, when you’re talking top six in the Championship, anyone can turn it on on their day because we know the quality.
“It’s just about doing everything we can to win.”
And with news that 4,500 supporters will be back at Oakwell for this spectacle, there really will be an element of home advantage for our first leg.
Styles is looking forward to stepping out onto the turf with a vociferous backing from the Barnsley crowd, although he admits it will be strange given the last 14 months.
“The play-offs are really exciting for the players and the fans,” he asserted. “For us to get there is a great achievement, but we’ve got to come through and win the game to get to Wembley, and that’s our aim.
“I think we’re all focused to get the job done. We all know what we want to do; we’ve all got the same goal and we just need to fight on the day and bring everything that we’ve got.
“It’ll obviously be a strange one because we’ve been playing for over a year without supporters, but they can only bring their full support and that should boost us in the game – especially at Oakwell.
“But they’re always there in spirit, so if they bring their voices that’s even better.”