Ex-Stag Adam Murray loving the ride as Barnsley shock their way into the Championship play-offs
Former Mansfield Town star and manager Adam Murray admits he has had a ball as Barnsley assistant coach this season with the Tykes fighting their way into an unlikely Championship play-offs spot.
Working alongside head coach Valerien Ismael the pair have masterminded Barnsley's shock rise from only staying up on the final day of last season to top six – and Murray says with no pressure on them, you would still not bet against them making the promised land of the Premier League.
“We are doing all right,” he smiled. “We are obviously the surprise package of the season.
“We have had a decent season so far and we just want to get it over the line now.
“After what happened at the end of last season I think the turnaround is probably more of a surprise to people on the outside then to those on the inside.
“Last year we were in the Championship with a really young, inexperienced group. We had some really tough lessons and managed to survive it.
“I think coming out the other end of that and the lessons the guys learned last season has put us in a really good place this season.”
Murray said the biggest thrill was surprising people with their results and put it all down to sheer belief.
“I have to be honest, I have enjoyed it,” he said.
“It's been good fun. We're kind of just crashing parties everywhere.
“One thing we have always had in this group is a massive belief, including last year when we were fighting at the other end of this league and people said we were down and out at Christmas.
“Obviously we had a change of manager at the start of the season and he has just kicked it on. We have that belief in the squad and we've got to the point now where we just want to kick on.”
On the looming play-offs, Murray said Barnsley will simply enjoy the ride.
“I think everyone else who is in there should be there whereas with us, there is no pressure on us and we are going to do what we've done all season,” he said.
“The plan is to go up and spoil more parties for bigger clubs!
“We know the league really well and we will be comfortable with whoever we get in the play-offs, we are not trying to aim for anybody or dodge anybody.
“We've had a focus this season of just taking every game as it comes and just focusing on the next one. That has seen us right, so nothing is going to change.”
He admitted it had been a strange season with supporters locked out as the world battled a deadly pandemic.
“Initially for us in the football world, we thought it was a short term thing,” he said.
“We were due to travel to QPR on the Friday and that got cancelled. We just thought it would be a couple of weeks thing.
“Then obviously it went on and on, and like everyone, it was horrible to see what was going on around the world.
“Then you are at home with the family, which in our industry you don't get a lot of time to do. So it was nice to be around the kids.
“But it still went on and on and you started wondering what may be next.
“We are very fortunate in our jobs that we got back to relative normality in being able to play games etc in our industry. That part of it has kept us sane.
“But you look around the world at the amount of challenges that people have had to face, it's been heartbreaking. “Hopefully now we are on the up side of it.”
Murray will take a keen interest in Saturday's relegation showdown at the other end of the table where Derby County, the club he started out at, take on Sheffield Wednesday with one or both clubs potentially heading for League One.
“The league this season has been unbelievable as you've got teams down there who you would not expect to be competing at that end of the table in a million years,” he said.
“But we said at the start of the season that it's going to be one season in the Championship where everybody is going to be able to beat everybody and it's the teams that gain some consistency that will do well.
“Derby have just not managed to find that consistency.
“Going into the last game of the season, you couldn't write the fixtures with Derby playing Sheffield Wednesday.
“There's nothing in it, goal difference is virtually the same. I don't think you could get a bigger game for those two clubs. “However it works out, it's been a really crazy season for those big clubs.”