Barnsley interim manager Paul Heckingbottom was ‘buzzing’ after the Tykes won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final to secure the club’s first major title since 1912.
Heckingbottom came into his post-match press conference at Wembley with a half-finished beer in his hand, as he hailed a thrilling 3-2 win over Oxford.
The Tykes had to fight back from being a goal down at the break – Callum O’Dowda had netted for Oxford – and Heckingbottom admitted a “kick up the backside” was needed.
Following the restart, leading scorer Sam Winnall forced Cheyenne Dunkley to score an own goal, Ashley Fletcher drilled in from close range, and man-of-the-match Adam Hammill curled home after a brilliant solo run from the halfway line.
“I’m still buzzing,” Heckingbottom said, as Barnsley survived Oxford’s second goal, which came courtesy of Danny Hylton.
“I told the players ‘you’ve got to enjoy this’. That’s what you play for. We’ll be having a celebration tonight, not just the players, but the fans, the staff, the owner, the director – everyone’s there.
“I’m just going to enjoy tonight, I enjoy what I do, even more so than I thought I would – love it to bits.”
Even the possibility of being named the permanent Barnsley manager did not faze Heckingbottom, whose side sealed their place at Wembley under current Bristol City boss Lee Johnson.
Heckingbottom said: “The club know I’d give everything regardless, the fans know that. That’s why they embrace it.
“There’s a point in second half when I could just as easily have jumped in with the fans and celebrated with them!”
But being a goal down was not pleasant viewing for the Barnsley faithful.
Heckingbottom added: “It’s probably the first time (the players) have needed a kick up the backside. And they know they needed it.
“It wasn’t anything tactical or brilliant. You could just see it was the mindset needed to change – flick a switch, play with more tempo and aggression, take more chances with or without the ball.
“And we did that. Being 1-0 down gives you licence to do that.”
Oxford manager Michael Appleton hopes his players will use Sunday’s defeat as a springboard to continue their promotion push.
The U’s, who are fighting to get out of Sky Bet League Two, were arguably the better side in the first half, and showed the no-fear attitude that Barnsley were lacking.
It made defeat slightly harder to stomach for Appleton, who said: “I think there’s obviously a sense of disappointment to lose the game.
“There were a few pivotal moments in the game that went against us. To concede as early as we did after half-time gave Barnsley a massive lift.”
Oxford had seen off Swindon, Dagenham, Yeovil and Millwall to reach the final, and Appleton was impressed with the campaign.
“It’s pretty hard not to be (proud),” he said. “We’ve got some young players that it will do the world of good.
“We’ve got six or seven games. Hopefully, we can use this as some sort of motivation.”