'Deserved champions' - Barnsley chief in warm tribute to Canaries
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Valerien Ismael wants his champagne moment with Barnsley in the Championship play-offs, after delivering a personal gift to his friend Daniel Farke following Norwich City’s title triumph.
Farke appeared for his post-match media duties with a newly-acquired bottle of bubbly from the Tykes’ chief, who took counsel from Farke before accepting the job at Oakwell.
Ismael’s surprise play-off contenders now face a two-legged tussle against Swansea later this month in the bid to join Norwich in the Premier League.
“Congratulations to Norwich who deserve to be champions,” he said. “We are proud of the guys to give such a performance against them, it's a great feeling to see we are a top team and we showed why we are in the play-offs spots.
"The Championship is finished and we must recover and prepare for the new competition against Swansea.
“It was important to finish strong against the champions. We recognise that what we do in the next weeks could change everything for everyone here. But we will keep control of our emotions.
“We have an advantage because all the other teams in the play-offs must go up, but we want to go up. We have a big desire but we have already reached our expectation this season.
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"We are underdogs but we deserve to be in the play-offs. We don’t have big pressure, just the desire to continue our good work.”
Fans could be present for the first play-off home tie on May 17, as part of the next stage of the government’s pandemic road map.
“The fans will make a big difference,” said Ismael. “If we can have them with us and the joy of finally seeing what this team is capable of, it could be another weapon for us to put the opponent under pressure. It will be a new situation for everyone to play in front of fans after such a long time, so it could be good for us to be at home.
"I am really happy to give fans pride this season. I hope they can be back for the play-offs because we need to celebrate with them.
“It is an incredible achievement to finish fifth, when you see what happened last season and the way we started this season. I am very proud to be manager of that team. I also want to say thank you to my staff. Everyone gives everything.
“When I arrived, I did not expect to be fifth but I am a winner. I wanted to have a safety season as quick as possible but, after January with the signings we made, we thought it could be something special.”