Barnsley skipper Howard on double mission

April 5, 2008

Barnsley captain Brian Howard leads his team-mates out at Wembley tomorrow desperate to reach the FA Cup final and confident of safeguarding the club's Championship status.

Manager Simon Davey - with the help of influential midfielder Howard - has masterminded an unlikely run to the semi-final stages courtesy of victories against Blackpool, Southend and most memorably over Liverpool and holders Chelsea.

The reward for causing two of the biggest upsets in the competition in recent years is a clash with fellow Championship side Cardiff, and a decent performance could kick-start Barnsley's faltering league form, not to mention set up a rare chance of winning some silverware.

Only goal difference is keeping the Tykes out of the bottom three but Howard insists relegation is not on the cards at Oakwell.

'We've got a chance of winning the FA Cup and I'm sure we will push on and stay in the league as well,' said Howard, who scored the decisive last-minute goal in the 2-1 win at Anfield back in February.

'I'm positive that we'll stay in the league. We'll pick up the points we need on the run-in and we'll look back at the end of the season and think what a great season it's been.

'We will never get a better chance of winning the FA Cup and we just hope that it won't be our last trip to Wembley this season.

'On a personal level, I haven't looked forward to a game this much in a long time.

'It's created a massive buzz around the town as well and now it's time to get the talking out of the way and go out and do the business on the pitch.'

With 14 goals to his name this season Howard is Barnsley's leading scorer and talismanic figure, and no-one is prouder of the club's recent FA Cup achievements than the 25-year-old.

He added: 'I think we've brought the magic of the FA Cup back into the competition by knocking Chelsea and Liverpool out and we are not in the semi-final by luck.

'We've got here by playing well and working hard and we've knocked out two of the teams who are in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, so we are going down to Wembley to win it. People should be fearing us really.'

Howard also backs boss Davey's claims the Bluebirds are favourites to claim a spot in the final.

'We are underdogs again and that suits us,' he stressed. 'I think we perform better when the pressure is taken off us and we're not expected to do so well. When we are expected to win we sometimes let ourselves down.'

The one and only time Howard played at the old Wembley he was on target for England Under-16s as they beat their Argentinian counterparts 2-1 in 1999.

Manchester United striker Carlos Tevez also scored for Argentina that day, and Howard joked: 'I played once at the old Wembley, we won the game and I scored so it will be nice to keep that record up.

'I'm going to savour every moment. It's the stuff dreams are made of.'