It has been a productive campaign for Aiden Marsh, who burst onto the scene in the summer as he was called up to the first team’s pre-season training camps to France and Germany.
For those of you who venture to the Oakwell Training Ground to watch our U18s and U23s in action, you will be aware of the youngster’s finishing prowess.
His ruthlessness in front of goal last year for our U16s meant that he was rewarded with a couple of substitute appearances by Martin Devaney, aged just 15, while also featuring heavily for Tom Harban’s side.
This term, he leads our U18s scoring chats with the young Reds currently third in the Professional Development League and pushing hard for a place in the end of season play-offs.
That form has started to transcend to the U23s as he showed his confidence to step-up and slam home a late penalty to claim a deserved point against Leeds United in their last outing.
“You’ve just got to perform as well as you can at as high an age group as you can and try not to think ‘these are a lot older than me, so they are better’; you’ve got to get on with it and just battle on,” began Marsh.
“I don’t get over-nervous with it when I’m in front of goal. You’ve got to believe in yourself and your ability. There’s a usual penalty taker and he told me to have it, then Martin shouted on for me to take it, so I grabbed it and smashed it in.
“I think the first couple of games I played, I didn’t really have many opportunities. But I’m getting more now and I’m enjoying it a lot more and I’m enjoying it going forward.”
In keeping with the club’s policy and dedication to develop burgeoning talent, Marsh has twice appeared on the bench since Gerhard Struber took charge of first team affairs in November.
The Barnsley-born striker was amongst the substitutes as the Reds came out on top in an enthralling encounter with Queens Park Rangers at Oakwell, before watching on from the dugout as his side sensationally put high-flying Fulham to the sword in west London.
So, is he a lucky omen?
“I like to think so, yeah,” continued Marsh. “It’s been an amazing experience; being from Barnsley, it’s been a dream to play for the first team. I’m getting there because I’ve been on the bench twice; it’s all been a great experience and I’ve loved every minute and, hopefully, one day I’ll actually get on the pitch.
“It gives me a lot of confidence for a new manager to have come in and still like me; he could have kept me with the under 18s, but he’s put me on the bench twice which shows he has faith in me. Hopefully, if I get on, I can repay him.
“A dream of mine is to smash one in at the Ponty End and then dive into the stand. That’d be class.”
Having grown up supporting the Reds, Marsh admits there were a few butterflies fluttering when he was given the chance to show what he can do in pre-season.
To be in a concentrated environment with players who you idolise can be intimidating, but the youngster – who only turns 17 in May – has taken it all in his stride and is confident in his own ability.
“When I first got called up for the France trip, I had to pinch myself a little bit,” admitted Marsh. “At first, it was a bit hard and overwhelming because I obviously used to watch all the lads on a Saturday.
“So to go in and train with them was a good experience and I think it’s bettered me as a player, and I’ve enjoyed it and taken to it now. I’m settled now and don’t get nervous when I’m asked to go and train.
“At this club, it’s not about how old you are – it’s what they think of you. You’ve just got to work hard every day and see where it gets you.”