With less than a month until we begin our Sky Bet Championship campaign, the hard work on the training ground has further intensified as the Reds crank up preparations for pre-season encounters.
Romal Palmer, in particular, has enjoyed a terrific 12 months as he made his debut towards the end of the 19/20 term at Queens Park Rangers, before going onto play a key role as Barnsley recorded a fifth place finish last time out.
“It’s been hard along the way with injuries and ups and downs but, on the back of the season we had where I played in a lot of the games, it definitely gives me confidence heading into the new season,” insisted our combative midfielder.
“I want to become more of a focal point of the team and hopefully I can do that by having a good pre-season and kicking the season off well.”
The arrival of new Head Coach, Markus Schopp, at the end of June could potentially see a different brand of football to the previous campaign.
While that garnered success, Palmer admits that he wants to be able to showcase his natural abilities and demonstrate that he can play his game at Championship level.
“It’s a little bit different,” continued the 22-year-old. “There’s been a few changes around the place, but the new gaffer has come in and knows how he wants to play, has got us practicing that on the training field and putting in the hard work.
“So, it’s not been too bad, so far. We’re looking forward to our first pre-season game to see how far we are away from where we want to be. It’s definitely been a steady introduction to the new gaffer.
“But this year, I definitely want to get on the ball more, express myself and show people who are wondering what I’m like, the real Romal.
“We know we’ve got the players to do it, it’s obviously about having the confidence in ourselves to play that style. The press will still be the same; we’ll still be intense but, on the ball, a bit more composed to try and create chances that way as well.”
Up first for the Reds is a trip to the Crown Oil Arena to face Rochdale, who recently suffered relegation to League Two.
There are also further pre-season examinations to look forward to before we get our campaign underway in South Wales on 7 August and Palmer is itching to get the proverbial ball rolling.
“I feel that the preparations are all leading into the season, even with the games,” he said. “Going into that game next week, we just want to implement what we’ve been doing in training with some of the drills we’ve had and put them into an 11v11 and see how we cope.
“Having the foundations there with the pressing et cetera, mostly that will help with the fitness and leading into the season. So, I feel like the training has been getting better and we just need that first game now to get us going and, hopefully, by the end of pre-season we’ll be ready and on the same page.”
However, before we face off against Dale on Wednesday, there is the small matter of a European Championship final showdown between England and Italy this weekend.
There is a collective buzz across the nation as we eagerly anticipate a first major final in a generation, and it’s certainly captured the hearts and imagination of everyone at Oakwell.
“All around the club now it’s just pure excitement; everyone is buzzing,” exclaimed Palmer. “We’ve waited this long for England to reach a major final and we’re so excited and we’re hoping for a great result and a great Sunday for England.
“It’s coming home, of course it is!”