What is Barnsley’s standing in the Championship at the moment?
Stephen: “They’ve got a very good manager in Paul Heckingbottom and coaching staff who have done really well. They got promoted the season before last, had a good season in the Championship last year, they’ve recruited well and they’re a young and hungry side who are looking to make a name for themselves. It won’t be easy for Tottenham, they’ll have a go and their desire and commitment is second to none. We (Villa) managed to play really well at the weekend and we’ve come away with a comfortable victory which was much needed for us but, having watched quite a few of Barnsley’s games in the last week or so in doing the analysis for our match, Tottenham will definitely have to match their work rate because that is definitely a strength of theirs. They keep going to the end and even if they go behind they keep playing the same way.”
Who are their danger men?
Stephen: “They’ve got some quality in wide areas, they like to get balls into the box, they’ve got a young striker on loan from Chelsea called Ike Ugbo who looks like he’s going to be a good player, the young left-sided centre-half called Liam Lindsay, he’s only 21 and he’s come from the Scottish leagues but he looks like he could be a good player if he keeps progressing. Barnsley tend to recruit players quite young and develop them.”
Our former player and your old team-mate Jamie Clapham is on Barnsley’s coaching staff under Paul Heckingbottom (pictured, above) as well…
Stephen: “Yes, Jamie and Paul are two very good, up-and-coming young coaches. When I was in the youth team at Spurs I played in the reserves with Jamie for a bit, then he got moved on to Ipswich and that’s when I broke through. We actually signed for Birmingham – him from Ipswich, me from Tottenham – on the same day in the January transfer window (pictured, below), which was in 2003. We were staying in the same hotel, we became quite good friends and we’re still friends today really. I did all my coaching licenses with Jamie and Paul, they’re both great lads and they’re making a name for themselves in the Championship.”
What do you remember about our battles with Barnsley in the top flight back in the 1990s?
Stephen: “I remember Barnsley as having a fairly decent team, they’d obviously been promoted and they had a very workmanlike team, players like Ashley Ward and Neil Redfearn and one or two others that had good careers. Oakwell was a tough place to go and at that time it probably wasn’t the best period for Tottenham, so we definitely had some tough games against them.”
Any other memories of playing Barnsley?
Stephen: “Unfortunately I remember getting sent off against them! I was a young player on the scene, I think it was my first season and we played them in the fourth round of the FA Cup. In the third round we played Fulham and I managed to score my first goal for the club at White Hart Lane but against Barnsley I remember playing on the left-hand side which wasn’t my favoured position to be honest, I got booked in the first half for a bit of a late tackle and in the second half I remember pulling the ball out of the air, I twisted in the area, went between two Barnsley players, tried to ride the challenge and ended up going over in the box and the referee judged it as a dive. I got sent off as a result and that was probably my worst experience as a Tottenham player!”
Thanks Stephen – those are our five points on Barnsley but while we’ve got you, can you give us an update on our young midfielder, Josh Onomah, who you’ve got on loan at Villa Park this season?
Stephen: “When he’s played, he’s done very well. You can see he’s a top class player and he’s someone who’s had my eye for a little while. He’s been a bit unfortunate with injuries where he’s had to come off in games but you can see the quality he’s got and he’s a really strong boy as well, really powerful for his age. He can go past people easily, I think he’ll admit himself that he’s still got bits to work on but he’s definitely got the right attitude and the desire to try to get there so I’ll be doing my best to try to help him become a better player this season. Having a year in the Championship will definitely benefit him and I’m sure he’ll be a better, more mature player for it. I’ve experienced it myself, going from the Premier League to the Championship and you think it should be easier but the attitude, desire and commitment from teams means there are no easy games. It’s the hardest league in the world to win because of the rewards that come with it – anyone can beat anyone and that’s what Josh is experiencing right now, so it’ll be a great experience for him.”
Tickets for Tuesday night's Carabao Cup third round tie with Barnsley are on general sale. Click here for more information and to buy.