The unfathomable Barnsley tale Portsmouth winger was part of and can inspire his side this season

Eight league defeats on bounce and bottom of the league in December.

Saturday, 25th January 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Saturday, 25th January 2020, 8:05 am

It sounds like the stuff of League One nightmares, but it’s in fact the opening chapters to one of the great football stories of recent seasons.

Barnsley were the club to produce the against-all-odds rise to the Championship in the 2015-16 campaign, as they went from the foot of the table in a miserable period under Lee Johnson to promotion via the play-offs.

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Paul Heckingbottom saw the job through after Johnson departed for Bristol City in February that season, to complete a success which confounded even the players who achieved it.

‘It was crazy,’ Williams reflected. ‘We were going down and down and down and the pressure was coming from everywhere.

‘Realistically, the manager could have got the sack because we lost eight games in a row.

‘Fair play to the club. They kept him and he turned it around. Then he got the move to Bristol City.

Pompey winger Ryan Williams

‘Then Paul Heckingbottom came in. He could’ve easily put his own stamp on things, but he carried on the same way and that’s how we went up.

‘It was on goal difference in the end but the confidence just went up. It was unbelievable.

‘We were crossing balls into the box and Sam Winnall was on the end of everything. Then there was Ashley Fletcher as well. They were both on fire.

‘We had two good wingers, too, in Adam Hammill and Lloyd Isgrove. They did really well, too.’

Barnsley celebrate their play-off victory over Millwall in 2016. Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Williams gave an insight into how confidence coursed through his Barnsley side, as they lost just three of their final 27 league games in a manner Pompey are now keen to replicate.

He added: ‘We were in such a bad position no one really gave us a chance. We didn’t think it could happen.

‘So we just went for it. It wasn’t like we didn’t care, but we maybe didn’t care as much.

‘I just remember everyone laughing about it. We were doing so bad and then were moving up the league.

‘There was the Leicester story and Burton got a second promotion so it didn’t really get as noticed.

‘It was exciting, everyone was happy and in a good mood. It’s unfathomable really, but that was how it worked.’

Pompey now find confidence building with two defeats in 20 in all competitions and big hopes over what can be achieved this term.

It’s a far cry from the angst felt earlier in the season. Williams felt that frustration was premature given what he’s seen before - and what happened at Fratton Park under Paul Cook three years ago.

He said: ‘When people were upset because we had a bit of a blip at the start of the season, I just felt we were 10 or 15 games in and no football had really been played.

‘Because we’re not first, second, third or fourth people aren’t looking at us now.

‘When it was the League Two season the team came through late in the last few minutes. Hopefully we can do something similar here.’