After arriving at Oakwell as our U18s head coach last week, Nicky Eaden spoke of his delight to be back at the Reds having come through the ranks as a youngster.
He went onto make over 300 appearances in eight seasons and was famously part of the Barnsley team that won promotion to the Premier League in 1997.
The former full-back has previously had roles in the academies at Coventry City and Leicester City and has also coached out in Jamaica prior to returning to South Yorkshire, and he is hoping his own experience can rub off on our U18s.
“I’m really happy to be back at the club – it’s taken me long enough to get back,” began Eaden. “The past few years, since I started coaching, I’ve always had one eye on getting back here in some capacity and, in the past, the timing has been wrong. But this time, I’ve just come back from coaching abroad and this role became available, and I jumped at the chance.
“Coaches are always role models, but one advantage I’ve got is I’ve been sat where they’re sitting now; I know what it’s like to come through. I know it’s a slightly different system now with the academies, but it’s still the same ultimate goal – breaking into the first team and making a career for yourself.
“They can look and think anything is possible. I was never the most physical player, but I know what it took me to get through and to break through; it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t a smooth path, and I was never identified as one of the ones that would do it. But I managed to, so I know what it took.”
On the touchline for the first time at the weekend, Eaden oversaw a 2-1 victory over Swansea City as the U18s got their Professional Development League campaign off to the perfect start at the Oakwell Training Ground.
Josiah Dyer and Emmaisa Nzondo were on the scoresheet, while Rogan Ravenhill saved a first half penalty in what was a strong performance from the young Reds.
“A win’s a win, and I think overall we deserved it,” surmised Eaden. “They’re a good, decent technical group, but I was most impressed with the work rate and togetherness of the players. It’s a real tight group who drive each other on, the way we bounced back after being pegged back to 1-1 – they kept going.
“I think the work rate ties in with what Bobby and the academy staff have already put in place – that work ethic; Barnsley Football Club has always had that reputation.”
That commitment embodies everything that is driven into the players at academy level; the never say die attitude and to fight until the very last whistle.
It is an ideology that Eaden is familiar with from his time here as a player, and he is aiming to continue with that approach on the training ground.
“I’ve seen a lot of coaches have their own philosophies, but if I’m working at this level, you have to tie in with the academy philosophy and the first team manager’s philosophy, to a certain extent,” he affirmed.
“I’ve got my own ideas on how the game should be played and it’s pretty much how I used to play the game; you work hard. Out of possession, you try to win the ball back. In possession, you try and keep it and create.
“There’s different ways of doing it, but that’s how I played as a player and what I know.”