For many Barnsley fans of recent years, when asked who is a Tykes’ legend and possibly the greatest player to grace Oakwell, the answer is invariably the same – Neil Redfearn, nicknamed Redders.
Below are some examples of what Barnsley fans thought about the player:..
“…Exactly what you needed out of a captain…put it in where it hurt, took one for the team, knew where the back of the net was, could pass, tackle and lead us through the Premiership year professionally. The full package. A true pro.”
“…Never stopped running in the Premiership…if he had played for any other Premiership team he would have got an England call up.”
“…Inspirational figure that gave hope to underdogs everywhere. He led the Reds through the Premiership season like an old hand.”
“…Growing up in the 90's and seeing Redders every week was the reason I'm a fan today, great footballer, great captain and a true professional.”
“…Redders was BARNSLEY…hope one day he comes back and becomes manager. Proper footballer, got stuck in and scored lots of goals from midfield. Sad day when he left.”
“….A player very much in the Steven Gerrard mould, drove the team on and scored plenty of goals from midfield…gave his best years to us and we will be forever grateful.”
But how did he come to have cult like status with Barnsley? Neil David Redfearn was born in June 1965 in Dewsbury. He was a youth player at Nottingham Forest, but signed professional forms at Bolton Wanderers in 1982. However, it was nine years and six clubs before he arrived at Barnsley.
Those early years of Redfearn’s career took in time after Bolton, at Lincoln City, Doncaster Rovers, Crystal Palace and Watford. During these various stints he built a reputation as goal-scoring midfielder. However the move to Oldham Athletic was the one that brought him to prominence.
In 1990/91 Redfearn was an ever-present as the Latics won the old Second Division title and returned to the top-flight of English football for the first time in 68 years. However, he didn’t get to play in the old First Division with Oldham as he was considered surplus to requirements.
Once more Redfearn was on his travels and in September 1991 returned to Yorkshire and signed for the Tykes. During his seven seasons with the Reds, he rarely missed a game, and became both club captain and penalty taker.
In the promotion season of 1996-97, Redfearn scored 17 goals as the Tykes made history in reaching the Premiership. During that lone season in the top-flight, no player did more to try and keep Barnsley in the Premiership.
Redfearn lead by example, with a fearless attitude and total commitment that endeared him to the Oakwell faithful. On the opening day of the season he got the Tykes opener against West Ham at Oakwell, but there was no fairytale win as the Hammers replied with two second half goals.
However, just three days later, the Reds went to Crystal Palace and Redfearn’s solitary goal earned Barnsley their first ever win in the top-flight. He was to end the season as the Tykes top scorer with ten league goals in 1997-98, but it wasn't enough to save them from the drop though, as Barnsley were relegated.
Unfortunately for the Reds, Redfearn's performances had made him a wanted man in the Premiership, and he was signed by Charlton Athletic for £1,000,000 in the summer of 1998. He left Barnsley having played 338 first-team games, scoring 84 goals.
Neil Redfearn was a great asset to Barnsley and loyal servant to the club, a benchmark by which every player comes to the club is judged by. Enough said.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.