It’s been a whirlwind five months for Barnsley since Conor Hourihane was handed the captain’s armband.
The Reds have risen from relegation favourites to play-off contenders, picking up a piece of silverware at Wembley along the way.
The midfield maestro took over the skipper’s role from young centre-back Alfie Mawson, who has since gone on to become one of the side’s star performers having had the responsibilities of leadership lifted from his shoulders.
The former Brentford man won Young Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year this season, and Hourihane has praised Mawson’s attitude and application in 2016.
“Full respect to Alfie - he’s been top class all year,” he told The Star. “For someone to have the armband taken off them and perform even better now than he was as captain I’ve got full credit for him.
“I personally voted for him for Players’ Player of the Year. I think he’s been fantastic since the turn of the year and the start of the run - he’s been a big big part of that.”
At 25, Hourihane is one of the elder statesmen in a youthful Reds squad. But he has previous leadership experience having excelled in the role for Plymouth three seasons ago.
Hourihane is a man who lets his football do the talking. He was last year’s top scorer, and leads the assists chart this time around with 11 – joint third in the division.
But the former Republic of Ireland Under-21 international says is also there to put an arm around those peers that need it, and play his part for the team as a whole.
“It’s about helping lads through day to day,” he added.
“I’m always there for them if they need me on and off the pitch. I like to lead by example with a bit of vocality on the pitch as well as performances.
“Maybe I’ve had to change my game a little bit after we changed formation to 4-4-2, not getting in the box as much and maybe not scoring as many goals, but that’s the sacrifices you need to have for a successful team.
“It’s not about the individual it’s about the team. Putting the team first is the main thing and that’s something I am doing.”