Second spells in football can either yield tremendous success or end up in disaster.
Whereas Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea in 2013 saw the Blues return to winning ways, James Beattie’s decision to re-join Sheffield United resulted in him failing to score a single goal for the Yorkshire-based outfit despite making 19 appearances for the club.
One of the best examples in recent years of a player rekindling his affinity with a former side occurred at Oakwell in 2015 when Adam Hammill decided to move back to Barnsley after fours years away. A player who has the tendency to produce the spectacular when at his very best, the 31-year-old made a relatively slow start to his second spell before finally bursting into life in the EFL Trophy in October.
A goal and an assist for Hammill against York City secured the Tykes’ progress to the quarter-finals of the competition where they would prevail in a penalty shoot-out over Wigan Athletic. With the club just two games away from booking a trip to Wembley Stadium, the winger stepped up yet again by scoring in the first leg of their clash with Fleetwood Town. Although the game would end all square, the return fixture saw Barnsley edge out the Trawlermen in yet another penalty shoot-out to secure a showdown with Oxford United in April.
Despite the Tykes entering the clash as overwhelming favourites against their League Two opposition, it was the Yellows who took the lead via a Callum O’Dowda header in the first-half, leaving Paul Heckingbottom’s side with work to do if they were to win the trophy.
Needing a player to step-up when it really mattered in the second period, Hammill produced one of the best spells of his entire career as he set up the equaliser for his side before Ashley Fletcher put the Tykes 2-1 up. With Oxford looking to deliver their own response, the winger decided to take matters into his own hands as after picking up the ball on the half-way line, he fired in a stunning effort to secure victory for his side.
Whilst this particular cup run was occurring, Heckingbottom’s side were also launching a late bid for the play-offs in League One which they succeeded in achieving in the last round of fixtures by beating Wigan Athletic 4-1. Facing the prospect of having to overcome a Walsall side who finished 10 points ahead of them in the regular season, Barnsley knew that they had to be at their very best to secure their second trip to Wembley of the year.
Luckily for the Tykes, Hammill was again on top-form as he provided an assist in the first leg and a goal in the return tie as they hammered the Saddlers 6-2 on aggregate.
Although the EFL Trophy was a major achievement for the club, the goal of achieving promotion meant even more for the club’s supporters and so their clash with Millwall created the basis for one of their players to become a cult hero. After a blistering start to the final which saw Fletcher score after just two minutes, Hammill then produced a moment of magic as he curled in an exquisite finish into the top corner to double his side’s lead. The Lions would end up pulling a goal back through Mark Beevers yet a late goal from Lloyd Isgrove secured Championship football for the Tykes.
In what had been an incredible season for Hammill, he had secured a legacy which will live on for years to come yet he could have the chance to add to it over the next few weeks. Now a Scunthorpe United player, he can potentially help his former side out by preventing Charlton Athletic from securing all three points on Easter Monday at the Valley.
If he can do this, Barnsley will have one less team to think about in the race for a top-two finish in the third tier.