Wally Meets... Mike Walters hears the ripping yarn of how Keith Hill is transforming Barnsley
Monty Python star Michael Palin is widely thought to have based one episode of his classic Ripping Yarns series on Barnsley.
Set in a gritty Yorkshire town in 1935, the story sees a die-hard fan return home each week from another defeat for his ailing team, Barnstoneworth United, and smash up the furniture in frustration.
Barnstoneworth hit rock-bottom in the Yorkshire Premier League when they are down to only four players, and three pairs of shorts, until our hero reassembles their great 1922 side to save the club from being sold to a scrap dealer.
In fact, Palin’s comedy was inspired by Huddersfield Town’s decline in the 1970s.
But the red-and-white colours and downtrodden earthiness is somehow more redolent of Barnsley.
And under Keith Hill, the Tykes have given their core support little cause to dismantle the furniture.
Despite rising star Jacob Butterfield’s serious injury and on-loan Manchester United midfielder Danny Drinkwater being pinched by Leicester, Hill has kept Barnsley looking up towards the play-offs more than over their shoulders towards the drop.
The Tykes have also completed a double over metropolitan neighbours Leeds. And only games involving Peterborough and Ipswich have produced more goals.
Over the last 15 years, in the parish of Dickie Bird, Sir Michael Parkinson and Geoffrey Boycott, they have never had it so good.
Actually, Boycs supports Manchester United. But after a season in the Premier League, a play-off triumph at the Millennium Stadium and an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, they mustn’t grumble.
Repeated defiance of the odds in a division awash with lofty ambitions is no mean achievement – especially as fans were on Hill’s back only half-a-dozen games after he crossed the Pennines from Rochdale.
“We live in an impatient world where people don’t like change, even though change is inevitable,” said Hill, 42, at Oakwell.
“Even though we were just about everybody’s pre-season favourites for relegation, a few of our fans seemed to have unrealistic expectations.
“One or two of them took offence when I challenged their expectations, but it needed to be done and we’re all singing from the same songsheet now.
“This is a club where supporters have been brought up on traditional values – and as long as they see a team in their own image that reflects traditional values of honesty, graft and communal spirit, they will forgive mistakes.”
Hill was headhunted by the Tykes having guided Rochdale to their highest-ever League finish. Now he is following the template he set out at Spotland.
“I admire the Premier League and I’m like every other manager who aspires to work there, but at that level the stakes are so high your principles can get lost," he said.
“At Barnsley, our aims are simple. We want to win matches and if we can do that by playing entertaining football, so much the better.”
And even if it all goes pear-shaped, there’s always a derby against Barnstoneworth.