The Greatest Goal I Ever Saw: Barnsley’s Darren Barnard vs Huddersfield

With Barnsley already five goals up after only half an hour in a surreal Yorkshire derby Darren Barnard takes up a good position out wide. From that moment everything seemed to slow down.
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Have you ever experienced one of those moments only seen in films? For a second or two, the world seems to exist in slow motion, you can hear your heart beating loudly in your ears, and everything that you can see seems to be perfectly clear.

In my many years of watching football, it has happened to me just once, on a cold November night in 1998 at Oakwell, home of Barnsley Football Club.

You may imagine that the greatest goal that you ever saw would be a total game changer. Perhaps it would be a promotion-clinching, 90th minute winner, or the last strike in a 15-goal thriller. Mine, however, holds no such importance. It was the fifth goal in a 7-1 victory and, in all fairness, had no bearing what-so-ever in the final outcome of the game.

Growing up as a Tykes fan living in Huddersfield, local derbies against the Terriers meant that not only local pride and three points were up for grabs, but also bragging rights among my friends, and almost everyone that I was at school with. For a bit of added spice, our game had been moved to a Friday night so that the Sky cameras could see what all of the fuss was about.

In a quite unbelievable match, the Tykes raced into a 5-0 lead after only 34 minutes. It was one of those performances where, for whatever reason, everything went entirely to plan, and worked perfectly. Some would say that the stars aligned above South Yorkshire on that cold night, others would have different theories, all I know is that it was an absolute joy to watch.

All of that was, however, before Darren Barnard scored a goal that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Forty minutes into the first half of the match, Barnsley right-back Nicky Eaden found himself in acres of space on the right-hand corner of the Huddersfield penalty area. With no-one closing him down, he looked up, and saw marauding left-back Darren Barnard taking up a strong position on the opposite side of the penalty area. As the ball sailed across the box, I experienced the moment that I described at the beginning of this piece. Everything seemed to slow down, and you could almost see the ball’s path being plotted out ahead of it before it even reached the Welsh defender.

If this moment was part of a film, cartoon or music video, Barnard would have broken the fourth wall, stepped out of the screen, and proclaimed to his audience, ‘Do you know what? I’m going to hit this.’

And hit this he most certainly did. As the ball left his boot on the volley, it swerved into the top corner of the Huddersfield goal, leaving Belgian 'keeper Nico Vaasen stranded on the spot. In that moment, there was an almost deafening silence around the ground as Barnsley fans shared a second of pure disbelief, before Oakwell erupted, and 20,000 fans celebrated arguably the finest strike that has even been scored at the ground.

Even more amusingly, it was the moment that Huddersfield fans realised that this just wasn't their day. After pleading with ground staff to be let out of the turnstiles, and being told they they would have to stay, a number of Terriers felt it necessary to scale the wall at the back of Barnsley's old South Stand, and out of the stadium. For me as a Tyke, sitting in the stand and cheering every shot (we had an incredible 27 attempts in the first half), it was as perfect as football had ever been, and probably ever will be.

The old saying goes that you should never meet your heroes, but when presented with the opportunity to talk to Barnard about that night, it was a chance I couldn't turn down.

"The atmosphere was electric with it being a local derby, and to say we started quickly would be an understatement. Every time we attacked we looked like we were going to score. Most people don't remember, but I hit the post and the bar in the first half, and Nico Vaesen pulled off 4 great saves. If we had gone in 11-0 up at half time, it would of been a fair reflection.

"It will go down down as the most famous and spectacular goal I have ever scored. It was special, and probably doesn't get the recognition it deserved. Gareth Bale scored one similar against Stoke last season and everyone raved about it saying he was world class. Mine was 10 yards further out on the angle."

If I close me eyes, I can still see that goal perfectly, like a video that plays on a loop inside my head. The sights, sounds and smells of that night will stay with me forever, and, not only is it the best goal that I ever saw, but I seriously doubt I will ever see another so magnificent again.

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