Michael Duff urges his Barnsley players to keep calm on their big day at Wembley
Paul Gascoigne is the perfect example of how a player should not approach a Wembley cup final, says Barnsley head coach Michael Duff.
Barnsley face derby rivals Sheffield Wednesday in the Sky Bet League One play-off final on Monday and with local bragging rights also on the line emotions will run high.
Duff referenced former Tottenham midfielder Gascoigne and his ill-fated role in the 1991 FA Cup final against Nottingham Forest when discussing how he hopes his players will handle the occasion.
Gascoigne flew into a reckless early tackle on Forest defender Gary Charles and ruptured the cruciate ligament in his right knee. He was carried off the field on a stretcher and missed all of the following season.
Duff said: “Paul Gascoigne is a perfect example, for anyone who’s old enough, in 1991 when he did his cruciate.
“He came out like a headless chicken because he was so emotional and in such a wild state, it ultimately did him damage and that’s what we don’t want.”
Duff, twice a Wembley winner as a player, with Cheltenham (1998) and Burnley (2009), said he will not be delivering any Churchillian speeches just before kick-off.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “The format will be the same. If the players need motivating when they’re at Wembley, in a play-off final, in a local derby, they’re in the wrong job.
“We’re just trying to keep it as normal as possible. You almost want to try and calm them down at that point, so they don’t play like headless chickens.
“Stick to the process, with what you’ve done all season, what’s got you into this position – intensity, quality, youthfulness, a structure and being able to hurt teams in different ways. There’ll be no big speeches.
“There’s a saying ‘success leaves clues’, well the clues are what you’ve been doing all season. Can you do it one more time? Hopefully, and with a little bit of luck, we win the game.”
Barnsley, transformed under former Cheltenham boss Duff since his appointment in June last year, stand on the brink of an immediate return to the Championship following relegation.
They were still challenging for automatic promotion until a 3-0 home defeat to Ipswich at the end of April but Duff is not ready to reflect on his first season in charge.
“Looking back on the season will happen on Tuesday,” he added. “There’s no point saying ‘well if we lose it’s been a good season’. We’re in a shoot-out now, the focus is on the game.
“At the end of the season we’ll take stock and reflect on how we can be better, whether we win or lose.
“The plan has already started anyway, whether we win or lose, so I don’t want us to take our eyes off the prize.
“Has it been a positive season? Yes, I think so. But we can really cap it off now and that’s the focus.”