View from the opposition: Conor Hourihane is key man to Barnsley’s hopes

Conor Hourihane has been Barnsleys key man this season. Pictures: PA

Conor Hourihane has been Barnsleys key man this season. Pictures: PA - Credit: PA

Barnsley-Mad.co.uk editor Rob Miles previews today's Championship clash with the Canaries at Oakwell.

Are Tykes fans happy with the season so far?

I think happy might be the biggest understatement of the year. On this day 12 months ago we were 24th in League One and now we are sitting in the top half of the Championship, I'm not quite sure it's actually sunk in. Obviously we had an amazing start to this season, winning five of the first seven games before falling away, but an excellent win at Birmingham last weekend has renewed everybody's confidence that we can survive at this level.

Is survival the main aim or is a play-off push possible?

I think every Barnsley fan may answer this question differently depending on how punch drunk they still are from last season but I would still take a 21st-place finish. It's 16 years since we last finished in the top half of this division and a couple of injuries could cripple us. I think most are just enjoying the ride at the moment, and not even thinking about where we will/can finish.

Paul Heckingbottom wasn't with Norwich for long as a player – how highly do you rate him as a manager?

Hecky will always have legendary status at this club after getting promoted with us both as a player and now a manager and obviously he is from the town. I think last season he just carried on what Lee Johnson started (a controversial topic) and he has dealt well with his first bad run at the helm. I quite like the fact he is never satisfied no matter how well we have played and you can just tell his love for the club oozes through him.

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Is Alex Neil fondly remembered by Barnsley fans?

I think he is. He played for the club during arguably our darkest time, relegation from the second tier and administration, and I always remember him as a tenacious midfielder, who despite not being the most talented always gave 100pc and made up for lack of talent with graft and effort – something us Yorkshire folk always appreciate.

Who have been your best performers?

Conor Hourihane pulls the strings – more on him later – whilst Sam Winnall, inset, has an incredible knack of scoring when it matters – 37 league goals in 74 league starts is a phenomenal record for a player some Barnsley fans claim 'doesn't work hard enough'. Adam Hammill is the player most opposition fans know about and his arrival last season ignited us onto our incredible run, but he has struggled at the higher level so far this campaign.

And who have been disappointing?

I thought Adam Armstrong would offer more after coming in on loan from Newcastle but despite a stunning debut goal at Preston he hasn't quite produced his Coventry form yet.

Norwich have been linked with interest in Conor Hourihane – how good is he?

Where do I start? Honestly, one of if not the best midfielder I have ever seen in a Barnsley shirt. I think the EFL posted the other week that he is statistically the best midfielder in the Championship and its not hard to see why. When he doesn't play well we don't win – he has missed eight games since joining in 2014 and we have lost six. He set up all three goals last weekend but unfortunately his contract is up this summer. There will have to be an official week of mourning in Barnsley if he leaves.

Which City players will Barnsley fans be most wary of?

All of them as you are one of our bogey teams! Its 12 matches and 16 years since we last beat Norwich and we always seem to get absolutely battered, plus Norwich were the team that relegated us in 2002. On an individual level I have always been a fan of Wes Hoolahan whilst Jonny Howson always used to play well against us for Leeds.

Do you think the Canaries are still among the favourites for promotion?

I think you have to be with the squad you have and Neil has pulled you from midtable to promotion before! I know you had a bad run of five straight defeats but that looks to have been soundly put to bed with last weekend's 5-0 win over Brentford, my only worry with Norwich is that they might become a yo-yo team of promotion, relegation, promotion.

And lastly, what is your prediction for the match?

We haven't won at home for seven games and never beat Norwich – Reds 0-2 Canaries