Following yet another terrific away performance in midweek at Aston Villa, the Reds’ eighth win on their travels this season, Marley feels the energy levels throughout the team are a huge factor in their success.
As he explained: “It was a good win. I think it was more impressive due to the fact we’d done so much running at Reading on the Saturday. We had to do so much running to stop their passing game, so that’s what was most impressive to me about Villa, our energy levels.
“But I’ve got to be honest I thought we’d beat them anyway. I think we’re the better team on paper. It’s about the team and I don’t reckon there’s any better than us on our day.”
In terms of fitness and the amount of work that goes into maintaining those levels, much of the credit has to go to the sports science department at Oakwell, and the Reds players are now fitted with GPS trackers to keep a check on their physical performances during matches, with Marley telling us he tops the charts..
“We’re doing on average about 10 kilometres of running each game, I think I did about 12k at Reading so the other lads need to keep up! But no, I’m only joking. But when you’re putting that shift in and then going to Villa and getting a result then that’s impressive.
“At the end of the day it’s 11 v 11 out there and we’re all human beings. I’m not interested in all this hype, you know, that people get at other clubs. I think we can beat anyone on our day. We just need to keep focused on ourselves. You’ve seen it other times, like here against Leeds, when we’re all at it, we can beat anyone. So we need to make sure we’re always at it.”
During the January transfer window, Marley had a transfer request rejected by the Club following interest from other clubs. He once again explained his reasoning behind the request and once more expressed his happiness at Oakwell.
He said: “When you hear that Premier League teams are interested your head gets turned. Every footballer wants to play at the highest level. But it was nothing to do with not wanting to be here, not at all it was my head getting turned, the bids were rejected, it doesn’t matter, I’m happy to be here.
“I won’t lie, it doesn’t come around often, that opportunity to play in the Premier League and I did try to make it happen. But like I say, it didn’t and so I’m happy to be here, I’m buzzing, it was never that I didn’t want to be at Barnsley, I love it here.”
Watkins has been a real key figure in Paul Heckingbottom’s Reds side again this season and whilst the old ‘one game at a time’ mantra is to be remembered, the Welsh forward feels you have to dream in football.
He told us: “My main focus is taking it game by game and trying to get us in the playoffs. I’d be disappointed if we didn’t make it to be honest. But again, we’ve got to be at it. We have to make sure we are mentally there and ready.
“The dream is to be in the Premier League but with Barnsley. Why not? I don’t think there’s anything to fear in this league. I think we’re better than we think we are. Do you know what I mean? If you look at the Villa game for example, first 20 minutes we gave them too much respect.
“But once we got into the game and thought ‘hang on, we’re better than these’ it was a great display and I feel like we should be doing that in every game.”
As one of the clubs in the automatic promotion spots at present, Brighton represent a real test for Barnsley this weekend at Oakwell, but Watkins isn’t fearing them and gives credit to Heckingbottom for the work he does with the squad.
“Brighton are a good team” he admitted. “I saw them a few weeks ago at Huddersfield, but they’re beatable. It will be a good game to watch I suppose but we just need to concentrate and be right at it, especially against a team like that. The Gaffer won’t allow us to switch off anyway.
“Everyone loves the Gaffer here. He’s done a great job, his coaching is brilliant and we all know our roles. I can’t speak highly enough of him, it’s a pleasure to play under him. I’m loving it here, I love the Club, the Gaffer, the lads are a great bunch and the fans as well, I feel the energy from the fans.”
With the last quarter of the season approaching, the Reds are sat in a fairly comfortable position in the EFL Sky Bet Championship table and Marley believes that going into the next run of fixtures that Barnsley should be aiming as high as possible with the playoffs just over the horizon..
He said: “Just from watching the rest of the league, I think we’re better than most. We’re stronger, quicker, fitter. We’re more mobile. But only when we’re at it, when we’re playing with intensity, no teams can live with us, you’ve seen it. So I’d be disappointed not to make the playoffs, but that’s my opinion.
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and we should be aiming for it!”