7.01.2003 It's been a funny old day. Tried to be disinterested in the draw for the 4th Round of the Cup. Shrewsbury versus Chelsea. Farnborough versus Arsenal. Where's the magic in that ? Nah, Hodges was right. It's only the FA Cup. Who cares about that when there's the joy of the league battle to keep us engrossed ? I mean the last thing we want at a time like this is a money-spinning, interest-generating, publicity-courting high profile game against a team that would thrash us anyway. Cups are mere distractions, and our 9–2 aggregate deficit in the three competitions we have entered is an accurate reflection of the contempt in which we hold them. Battling Barnsley!! Whoever penned that particular nickname clearly new nothing about the club. Well not the club we have now anyway. It was all so different in my day. (Isn't it always!) Well for one season anyway. And it just so happens that it was my first as a Barnsley supporter, and the reason I am probably writing this tonight. In October 1963 I saw my first game at Oakwell. We played Brentford and drew 1-1. I don't know who scored the Barnsley goal, though it was probably Tony Leighton. I remember being impressed, well very impressed really, that Brentford had a current Northern Ireland international playing at centre forward. This was before the days when all you needed to play for any Ireland team was a grandmother with a small collection of Irish linen tea towels. He was, I have to say, cumbersome in the extreme, but as an 11 year old at my first game, to play against a team who had an international player in their midst, and to hold them to a draw was a feat akin to winning the league. I was hooked. I might have got off the hook had it not been for the cup run that year. Between mid October and early January we must have played in the first two rounds of the Cup, but I have no real recollection of those ties. But we got through to the third round and drew Scnuthorpe, then a good second division side, as opposed to our mid – bottom of the third. We played them away in the first leg and drew 2-2. The replay at Oakwell drew a crowd of over 20,000 and a fantastic game saw us victorious 3-2 after extra time. I watched it from the old Spion Kop, and was very late home that night, exciting in itself. I was with mates no older than me, and public transport back to Darfield was the only way to get home. But this was before paedophiles had been invented, so nobody was overly worried. We scraped through against Bury in the fourth round, 2-1 I think, and the fifth round draw paired us with cup holders Manchester United. That we subsequently lost 4-0 was academic. This was Barnsley FC centre stage. The glamour club against the artisans, the millionaires against the miners. It was all we talked about for weeks. The Sun, then a 'broadsheet' with no tits, carried pictures every day in the run up to the game of a Barnsley player, with a brief description of their career to date. I saved them all, and stuck them in a scrap book, along with all the other articles and match reports on the game. Barnsley's team was Williamson in goal, Hopper, Brookes, Wood, Winstanley, Houghton, Byrne, Leighton, Kerr, Sheavills, and there's always one that you forget which may or may not have been a young Bob Earnshaw but probably wasn't. In a masterstroke of fiscal planning Joe Richards decided to sell tickets for the game to those attending the previous one, at home to Wrexham. This ensured a 17000+ gate for that game, compared to the usual 5-6000. We won that game 3-0, and were optimistic that we could at least compete. We set off on the 8.20 bus, arriving at the ground for just before 9. We were about the first in the queue, and got pole position down by the dugouts. I remember talking to the MUFC staff ensconced in there about the words scrawled in red and white paint on my rattle, which I waved furiously, very close to their faces, on several occasions. I might have come close to decapitating Matt Busby, though more likely it was Jimmy Murphy. From my position I got a worm's eye view of a young 17 year old winger who turned out not too bad, George Best or somebody they called him. I certainly wasn't impressed, as he was yet to play for Northern Ireland, and therefore comparisons with the Brentford centre forward were inevitably disparaging and dismissive, as the youngster weighed no more than 8 stone drip wet through and must have had to run round in the showers to get wet. Law and Charlton strutted about like the thoroughbreds they were, Stiles destroyed us in midfield and David Herd scored twice I think. Oh yes and that Best bloke got one as well. Charlton struck the crossbar with a thunderbolt, and they used to say that years later it was still shaking! So the dream was over, but the nightmare had begun!! Almost 40 years later I can still remember my feelings as if it were yesterday, and the love affair has persisted ever since. Later that season, following an alarming slump in our league form after the cup exit – Glynn, you might be right after all – we were in dire straits, and needed a point from our last game to stay up. We played our last game after the other clubs had finished, due to our extended cup run. I was laid in bed when my mam shouted up the score. I knew we had been losing 2-1 away to QPR, a side with a good home record, with not long to go, and so relegation looked a certainty. I was as unhappy as only a true supporter can be. 'It's finished 2-2 – now get to sleep'. In seconds I was transformed into what I can only describe as euphoria. In the whole of my life I cannot recall being quite as happy as I was at that moment, and I hugged myself under the sheets. Childhood is a wonderful thing. Things are either black or white. Later on in life happiness tends to be not quite so acute. You may feel glad about something, ecstatic even – getting married, the birth of your children etc, but it is rarely as unqualified as with me that night. The burden of responsibility that comes in adulthood inevitably acts as a constraint. It was to be many more years before I listened to Barnsley whilst laid in bed. The next time was in November 1996. I was in the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham, the day after a five hour operation had seen the removal of a large tumour from the top of my thigh. I had been in intensive care under observation for the night, and only got back onto the ward at about 2.00pm. Though my wife and son tried to make conversation, I was really more bothered about what Barnsley were doing. The hospital radio commentary game that day was Wolves v BFC at Molineux. We went 3-1 up and then were pulled back late on to 3-3. I nearly had a relapse!! Later during my treatment I needed extensive chemotherapy, and my periods of hospitalisation often coincided with Barnsley's games, which of course I followed closely. In my absence we'd signed John Hendrie, and I particularly remember listening to the Grimsby game, where I seem to recall he scored a couple at Blundell Park. That season ended up, of course, as the greatest in our history, and I am sure that what we achieved helped me in my recovery. I wonder if there is a 10 – 11 year old Shrewsbury supporter about to embark on a love affair with their club. Everton and Chelsea in one season ? Fantastic, and something they will remember and relive for the rest of their lives. If there is, I hope that he or she derives as much pleasure from watching their club in the forthcoming seasons as I have done for the last 40 years. Managers and players might be foolish enough to dismiss the FA Cup as an irrelevance. Real supporters know better. The day ended somewhat bizarrely when the site admin team on this bulletin board issued 'calm down' notices to the more volatile posters who, it seems, have offended Peter Doyle with over-zealous comments that have apparently caused him much upset. Upset to the point where possible police involvement is being mentioned. That is, of course regrettable, but can anyone who makes the kind of statement attributed to him in recent weeks expect much less ? The Dear Diary section is not intended to be offensive, but is nevertheless partisan. I am, first and foremost, a fan. I believe that the financial and emotional investment that I have made into this club over so many years does entitle me to an opinion. And my opinion is that, unless and until Mr Doyle makes some unequivocal statements as to his future plans for this club, he will inevitably be the centre of vitriol and abuse, because he has made many of those who love this club feel disaffected and alienated. I know very little of him, and for all I know he is the most honourable of men, with the long-term best interests of the club at heart. Only he can now act to quell the clamour for information, because only he knows precisely what his long term plans are. I do hope that he understands this. He could become a legend in his own lifetime if he is able to bring back the good times to Oakwell. The supporters have lived with uncertainty for over three months. They look at what has happened at York City and fear that we may be next. Inevitably this leads to ill considered, overly aggressive comments that serve no purpose to either party involved. Like a drowning man we need a lifebelt to cling to, so come on Mr Doyle, just let us know what your plans are.