Barnsley Head Coach Lee Johnson gave his thoughts ahead of Wigan Athletic’s visit to Oakwell this weekend.
Following the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy victory on penalties against the Latics a fortnight ago, Johnson is hopeful of repeating the trick this weekend to help Barnsley out of the bottom three.
He said: “Wigan have such a strong squad because they have that ability to change the squad like-for-like and still give them that dynamic.
“It’ll be another tough test, tougher than they JPT game but we’re looking forward to it.”
The team is looking strong with no fresh injury concerns for Johnson ahead of this weekend’s game.
Question marks do remain over Ryan Williams’ availability over the Christmas period with an Australian Under-23s tournament on the horizon, although Johnson is adamant about keeping him at Oakwell.
“The only real issue was Marc Roberts but he’s come through with only bone bruising and everybody else is fine," he continued.
“Ryan is chomping at the bit and knocking on the door saying he wants to start. We’ll have to make sure that when we do start him, there’s a place for him to keep the shirt because there’s decent competition for places.
“We’re looking into that and we’ve left it with the powers that be to see what the laws are and the rules to make sure that we keep him here.
“We don’t want to be without a player for seven months due to injuries and international calls, particularly a player we went so hard for in the summer.”
Johnson said the club have the wheels in motion to bring in new faces in January, as well as looking to extend the loan deals of those already in the club.
That said, for the Head Coach, it is all about recruiting the right players as he wants them to be eligible for the Johnstone’s Paint Area final against Fleetwood Town.
“We’re looking to extend Kevin Long’s loan. We’ve had talks with Burnley and they’re happy to extend it but they will require an immediate recall,” he said.
“Things change all the time and the difficulty is we’re also looking for JPT availability which could limit the market.
“In some areas, recruitment is a must and in some we can get away without it but it’s an important factor in who we’re looking to bring in.
“We could potentially be depleted if everybody was recalled and we were unable to extend their loans. We want to deliver a trip to Wembley and we’re only going to do that with the best possible team out,” he added.
Johnson also welcomed the return of former Reds favourite Bobby Hassell as the Head of Academy recruitment.
The defender spent 10 years with the Reds and Johnson is glad to have him back on the team in an advisory role.
Johnson added: “It was a club decision and Bobby has a good affinity with the club and that’s what we want. I’ve played against him on numerous occasions and always had fun because he’s that sort of winner.
“That’s what you want around the club. I’m sure he will be spread with his quality and I’m looking forward to working with him.
“I’ll be drawing from him in terms of ideas and it’s good to have someone in recruitment who’s been around the town and is idolized and that will only benefit us.
“The ideal scenario is that we have 11 starters that are all from Barnsley, coached, educated and brought though and Bobby is only going to benefit us.”
Two hundred and eighty-eight fans made the trip down to Colchester last weekend to see the Reds run out 3-2 winners, despite surviving a late scare and Johnson feels they deserve to be rewarded with another good performance this weekend.
He assessed: “When you’ve had a few bad results, everyone naturally points the finger but by the same token, when you get a few wins and draws, the love is back in the room.
“I know the players are really keen to thank the away fans this weekend with a performance against such a strong team this weekend.
“We have to keep learning and working hard. The lads have been great, but there is still work to be done.”