By Tony Leighton
Barnsley manager Keith Hill called the captaincy of his currently struggling npower Championship team a "poisoned chalice" when he recently appointed goalkeeper Luke Steele as the club's sixth skipper of the current campaign.
The third from bottom Tykes had gone seven games without a victory before Steele took over the captain's armband, and the winless run has since stretched to 10 ahead of Saturday's relegation six-pointer against second-bottom Sheffield Wednesday.
But former Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion keeper Steele, a supporters' favourite at Oakwell since joining Barnsley almost five years ago, is relishing the responsibilities of captaincy and is intent on grabbing his opportunity - as is a goalkeeper's wont - with both hands.
The 28-year-old 'keeper told football-league.co.uk: "I was over the moon when the manager asked me to take over just before we played Burnley last month.
"I never thought twice about accepting the job. I've always believed that the captain's role is extremely important and it gave me a real boost to be given the chance.
"Not many goalkeepers get to captain their teams, but for me there are no negatives about it - the 'keeper can see the whole of the game in front of him and so he's in a good position to make decisions and pass on advice.
"I've only had three games as captain so far, but I've enjoyed the added responsibility and hopefully I can keep the armband for some time to come."
Steele's games as skipper have brought a draw with Burnley, a defeat at Watford and then last week a 2-2 draw at promotion-chasing Leicester City - who needed a last minute equaliser to deny the Tykes a much-needed victory to end their disappointing run.
"To be fair," said Steele, "we were second best against Leicester. But for heart and endeavour we fully deserved the draw if not the win. At least we're starting to grind out results now, and we've put in some good performances of late."
Steele and his colleagues will aim for a good performance at Oakwell on Saturday to win what will be a hotly contested South Yorkshire derby against a Sheffield Wednesday side that have lost seven successive matches to drop deep into trouble.
The Owls are just three points behind the Tykes, however, and Steele said: "This is our biggest game of the last two years, there's no question about that.
"Both sides are on bad runs at the moment, and even though we are only around the half-way point of the season the match is definitely a vital six-pointer."
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