Reds Assistant Manager Chris Hutchings has overseen the squad’s pre-season training sessions, involving high-intensity passing drills as well as keeping possession whilst fatigued, and has been impressed with the young squad.
Speaking exclusively to Barnsleyfc.co.uk, Hutchings said, “First and foremost, most of the lads have come back in very good shape. They've had programmes to work on throughout the summer and full credit to them for coming back at a level where we can do what we want to do.
“With Nathan (Winder - Head of Sports Science) doing all the work in the gym, it's been a good combination. The boys have worked extremely hard. We've got a lot of young lads who have shown a lot of enthusiasm. At the other end of the scale we've got the older players showing the younger lads what it's all about.
“It's very competitive but very, very good.”
Three first-year professionals in George Maris, George Smith and Nana Boakye-Yiadom are all holding their own in every session, as Hutchings continued, “Everyone is encouraging one another - whether it be the young lads encouraging the older lads to get through if they're behind on something and vice versa.
First-year pro, George Smith, in action
“There's been lots of encouragement to get people through the hard work. There's no easy way of getting fit. It's hard work and something that has to be done and there might be something they might not enjoy but it's about the team-work and pulling one another through.
"Three or four of the younger boys have really impressed me, not just with their fitness but with their quality in the small-sided games.
“If you're good enough, it doesn't matter what age you are. everyone's fighting for a shirt. That's what you need - competition for places. We've got young lads willing to run through brick walls for us.”
The squad have enjoyed most sessions with a ball at their disposal, something which wasn’t commonplace several years back during Hutchings’ playing days.
“I can remember going down to Aberystwyth and running up sand dunes,” recollects the Assistant Reds boss. “We had lots of long, arduous runs which we don't seem to do as much of these days. The gaffer and I didn't see a ball for a week. It didn't do us any harm but it's a nice mixture now because Sports Science has taken the game further on. The diets and recovery makes things much better and players look after themselves much more. They know if they go about it the right way, they can get an extra two or three years on their career.
Paul Digby evades the challenge of Chris O'Grady
“You play football with a ball, and that's what you want to do. If there's an easier way of doing it - throwing a ball in - to take that monotony of running away, then we'll do that. The lads would much rather run with the ball than without it. That's what we'll have to do on a Saturday so why not involve a ball throughout the week.
“We normally work for four minutes in the small-sided games then rest for two minutes. We work up to six of those games so they get plenty of recovery so they can come in and sustain the level of quality that we require to work with.”
This week sees the squad gearing up for their first taste of match action with a visit to Halifax Town, where Reds fans will get their first glimpse of new recruits Conor Hourihane, Kane Hemmings and Adam Davies, as well as the young pros.
One of the three new recruits so far, Conor Hourihane
“Conor's come in and I've known him since my Ipswich days when he was in the Academy there,” said Hutchings. “I've monitored his career and he's turned into a fine player. I'm sure he will do the job here for us because he's a very talented boy. We've got Kane in from Cowdenbeath and he's looked sharp in training. He's looking quite good.
“Hopefully everyone will get 45 minutes or maybe 30 minutes this Saturday. Some will get more game-time than others but it's the first proper match and we want to blood everyone in before we head off to Italy for a couple of games.”