BARNSLEY skipper Stephen Dawson admits he was daft to have a pop at the Tykes’ fans – but says his fury was born of desperation to stay up.
Dawson, 28, lost his rag after Barnsley’s 5-0 defeat to Huddersfield last month, confronting a group of supporters who were hurling abuse.
He subsequently apologised, and has since won the praise of Barnsley boss Danny Wilson who this month awarded “leader” Dawson the armband.
“I’m human at the end of the day,” says the former Mansfield, Bury and Leyton Orient man. “I was angry, frustrated. If I lose a training game I’m annoyed.
“So to lose 5-0 against your rivals, you can only imagine how it felt. I was going through exactly what the fans were.
“I should never have reacted. Sometimes you just have to listen to what they say and take it on the chin.
“People have a certain perception of footballers. Most think ‘Oh, they pick up a really good wage, they don’t care about the club’.
“But I’m passionate. I’ve been brought up to give it your all in everything you do, whether you’re good, bad or indifferent. It was drummed into us that nobody should ever be able to look at you and say ‘You didn’t try your best’.
“To be accused of not trying hurts. From a personal point of view, it took me nine or ten years to get to this level and I don’t want to get relegated after two-and-half years.
“And with all due respect, it’s our livelihoods. I’m out of contract come the summer, as are a lot of other lads. Come the summer, there are 700-800 players out of contract and it’s getting harder and harder to get another one. We all need to stay in this league.”
Wilson – who replaced David Flitcroft in December – made Dawson his captain after being impressed by his determination and battling qualities, something which the player himself says were forged on the playing fields of his native Dublin.
“I used to play everything back home,” says Dawson, one of four brothers (including Yeovil midfielder Kevin) raised by a sports-mad father.
“Growing up, there were times when I’d play football, Gaelic football and hurling all in the space of a weekend. You’d play two games on a Saturday, one on a Sunday.
“That was the same throughout the whole family. It’s how we were brought up and a lot of Irish are the same. Sport is at the heart of every family and community.
“I’ve had a few broken fingers with the hurling, and plenty of bumps and bruises from the Gaelic football.
“That’s why when people talk about the Championship being physical I have to laugh because a little tackle here and there is nothing compared to what I experienced growing up.”
And despite Barnsley being deep in trouble, Dawson is not giving up hope they can extend their eight year stay in the Championship.
“You’ve just got to keep going and be positive,” he adds. “It’s like anything – if you work hard, you’ll reap the rewards.”