Barnsley academy product Jake Greatorex has signed his first professional contract with the Club.
The 18-year-old goalkeeper has put pen to paper on a deal that will keep him at Oakwell until June 2019. Greatorex has impressed at under 18 and under 23 level this season with mature performances that have not gone unnoticed by the Reds’ coaching staff.
“A couple of months ago I had my review and they told me I was having my pro contract, and I was over the moon - I was buzzing,” said Greatorex. "It’s my dream come true.
"They told me I’d be playing with the under-23s and I think I’ve been doing well because I’ve been confident. That pressure hasn’t been on my shoulders; have I been playing for this or that? I feel secure and I feel happier, and I’m enjoying my football at the minute.
“I’m really pleased with how I’m playing. Last year, I came in as a first year in the under-16s, and I did well - I got my scholar and went to an England camp. I worked hard during the summer break, came back fit and ready to go.
"We had a good trip to Holland with the under-18s and I started playing, felt confident and sharp, and just wanted to carry that on. Overall, being a scholar has been a big learning curve and it has improved me as a person mentally and has made me stronger.”
As well as his experience with the national team at St. George’s Park, Greatorex also enjoyed a loan spell with Penistone Church earlier in the campaign.
The young Reds’ stopper featured in the FA Cup preliminary round, and he believes that his exposure to first team football in the world’s most famous cup competition will be beneficial to his development.
“I started off in the under-18s and thought I was doing well, then Bobby Hassell pulled me into the office before I was due to go to an under-23s game,” continued Greatorex. "He said we want you to go on loan to Penistone because they’re playing in the FA Cup preliminary rounds and they want a goalkeeper to play at Harrogate Town.
"There were a couple of thousand fans there; they were flying at the top of the Conference North and put their full side out. Penistone were part-time and we kept them out for 60 minutes, we ended up losing the game but it was a good learning experience and something different.
“I think the experience has helped me because, when I came back, it made me feel more confident and if I can compete against fully grown men then I’d be able to do it against players my own age and players in the under-23s, so it was good in that respect.”
Crucial to Greatorex’ development are the academy coaches at Oakwell, who oversee the progress of players at all age groups.
The 18-year-old has worked closely with Martin Devaney, Paul Harsley and, in particular, goalkeeping coach Matt Murray, who was capped by England at youth level.
“Matt’s quality; he came in at the start of the season,” said Greatorex. "I remember meeting him on the first day and thinking he’s absolutely massive. I knew he’d played for Wolves and that he was on Sky Sports so I thought listen to him, like I would do with any coach. But the advice he’s given me has been second to none because he’s been there and done it.
"He’s so approachable - if I feel like anything has gone wrong or I ask him what I could do better, he just answers me straight away; he’s like a text book. It’s like fun with him. You enjoy it and you learn at the same time, and that’s the best way. It’s been a quality year with him, I couldn’t have wished for anything better.
“I just want to keep working hard with the coaches. Chris Smithson has been brilliant with me in the gym; he’s been unbelievable. In terms of going and asking him questions, he’ll never have a go at you. Luke Dopson is the same with the first team. To be fair, all the coaches here are brilliant; they’ve all been there and done it like Martin Devaney, Paul Harsley and Tom Harban, who I’ve had since I was a lad.
"But I feel comfortable here; I’m from Barnsley - I live five minutes away and used to come here as a kid. I just feel comfortable in this environment and when you’ve got coaches that back you, it makes your job easier.
“I have plenty of laughs with the lads - always getting bantered. Our team is class, everyone is nice. Everyone gets along and enjoys their football, and that’s how it should be.”