Tommy Willard insists he is full of confidence heading into the new Professional Development League campaign.
The young forward scored twice on Tuesday evening as Barnsley U23s beat Hemsworth Miners Welfare 4-0 at the MDC Stadium, netting either side of Romal Palmer’s brace.
“It’s good to get two goals in pre-season and getting confidence going into games at the start of the season,” said Willard. “It’s good to build on this because we’ve got two big games coming up against Doncaster and Stoke, so this was a good confidence booster.
“I’m obviously getting used to the physicality of the under 23s side but I had a bit of an experience of it last year, so it’s all about pushing on now, working hard in the gym and getting physically fit and running to get ready for the new season.”
Willard suffered an ankle injury towards the end of last term, but has come back raring to impress in pre-season.
The 18-year-old scored 12 goals for the U18s and once for Devaney’s side in a South Yorkshire derby against Sheffield United – a stunning strike from distance – and believes that the challenge of playing against non-league opposition is beneficial heading into the new campaign.
“Playing against men’s teams in pre-season is something that you need to get used to because there’s always tackles flying about,” continued Willard.
“You’ve got to be physical and know how to use your body better, but if you can get the ball down and play your game then the physicality doesn’t really matter – we’ve just got to show our quality in these situations.”
The U23s amassed a record points total last season as they finished seventh, losing just one of their last 16 league games, and Willard is hoping that his side can take that momentum into the forthcoming campaign.
“We’re confident going into the new season because we’ve got a good squad and a good manager as well; we think we can do well this season – it’s all about sticking together,” said the youngster. “Individually, I’m confident as well after last season; I’m just looking forward to it.”