Reds attacker Marley Watkins spoke exclusively to barnsleyfc.co.uk following a January full of speculation regarding his future.Since joining the Club from Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the summer of 2015, the 26-year-old has been one of the top performers at the Club and proved to be a big part of the Reds promotion squad last season. He has enjoyed a positive start to life as a Championship player and as the January transfer window opened, it was no surprise that the front man had attracted interest from other Clubs. However, despite the circulating rumours, the Reds front man wanted to strongly reaffirm his commitment to what he describes as a ‘special’ Club.
Marley said, “I just want to make it clear to all the fans that I’m happy here, really happy. I didn’t take much notice of the speculation but I know there were a few rumours flying around which was a bit surreal. To be completely honest with you all, yes I did hand in a transfer request after finding out that there was Premier League interest in me. It turned my head to some extent, but I never lost focus on the pitch. All that matters is what happens on the football pitch, and I’ll never lose focus when it matters. It’s all about giving 100% every single game.”
“It’s every footballer’s ambition to play at the highest level so I looked further into the opportunity. You work towards playing in the Premier League your whole life, so my eyes lit up when I heard of the apparent interest and I was naturally excited by the opportunity to play in the biggest league in the world. But now the window’s closed all I want to do is get Barnsley as high up the league as possible. There’s no reasons we can’t sneak into the playoffs with the lads we’ve got.”
“The request got rejected by the Club and I completely respected the decision, 100%. Once I was told that I wasn’t going anywhere, I moved on straight away and continued to work hard for the gaffer, for my teammates, and the Club. In some ways, it was a nice position to be in because if I didn’t go to the Premier League then I would stay at Barnsley, a place where I love playing and a Club I’ve got a lot of affection for. I give everything for this Club in every game that I play and I will always continue to do so. It’s a special Club and I’m proud to wear the Red shirt and to play for a Head Coach like Paul Heckingbottom. The relationship between the Head Coach and the fans is like nothing I’ve experienced.”
“I’ll keep working hard, helping to bring success to the Club and then we’ll see where we go from there. I wouldn’t rule out staying here longer term as I love being here. Like I say, hopefully I can go even higher with Barnsley. I’m really enjoying my time here and I’m 100% committed to this Football Club. I’ll continue to do my best for the Club and I want to say thank you to the fans for all the support they have given me. It really means a lot.”
Throughout January, Watkins has spoken in depth with Paul Heckingbottom about the Head Coach’s plans for the second half of the season, and the frontman feels reassured and excited by what the Gaffer has told him. Watkins is now fully focussed and looking forward to what lies ahead.
“Hecky explained to me what he wants us to achieve throughout the rest of the season and I’m completely behind him. I couldn’t be happier than I am right now. I love playing under the Gaffer and it’s been like that ever since he became Head Coach. I can’t speak highly enough of him. I’ve never seen such a connection between the fans and the Club, at any of the clubs that I’ve played for and it’s awesome to be a part of what we’re building here. I trust Hecky completely in what he’s doing and how he wants the team to play, and I know the other lads do as well. We’re all behind him and there is great unity in the dressing room.
“We now move on and I’m excited for what lies ahead at Barnsley Football Club. My aim will always be to play at the highest level, but who’s not to say that won’t be with Barnsley? That would be the dream. It’s going to be difficult but I believe we’ve got what it takes to get into the Play-Offs. You only have to look at the run we went on this time last year to see that we have the team spirit and determination to be successful and do something incredible. We’ve shown we can hold our own against any team in this division, so we’ll give it our best shot and see where it takes us. It’s a very positive and exciting place to be at the moment.”
One of Watkins’ biggest strengths is arguably his versatility and throughout his time at Oakwell he has been deployed both as a winger and as a striker. Marley explained that he is comfortable playing either role and is confident that he will be effective wherever he is played by the Head Coach.
“I’ll play wherever the gaffer needs me to play, whether it’s out on the wing or up top as a striker. I enjoy both roles. I feel I’m effective in both positions and my goal record reflects that. Whether I’ve been on the wing or up front, I’ve scored goals. So if I’m needed to step into a more forward role between now and the end of the season then I’m ready for it and I’ll give everything for the cause. Wherever I play, I’ll chase every ball and I’ll never give the defender an easy time. I like to think I can be a real handful and hopefully the fans can see that I’m giving them everything when I play. I believe in myself and whether it’s as a striker or a winger I feel I can be a real threat and score goals.”
Marley Watkins and the Reds will be back in action on Saturday as we take on Preston North End at Oakwell! Get your tickets online now by clicking here!