Fresh from making his senior debut, academy graduate Joe Ackroyd spoke of his excitement at being involved in a Reds’ first-team fixture for the first time.
Having been part of our set-up since the age of 10, the young midfielder has gradually progressed through the ranks before appearing as a 106th minute substitute in the thrilling Emirates FA Cup victory over Barrow AFC on Saturday afternoon.
“I was just trying to keep my composure, really,” said Ackroyd, speaking exclusively to iFollow Barnsley. “Obviously, you’re buzzing inside knowing that you’re going to come on, but I was just trying to concentrate on my job and role that the gaffer and his assistant gave to me.
“I thought I might get a chance and, when it went to extra-time, he said he was going to bring me on and I was getting ready, and it didn’t feel real to start off with.”
The game itself will go down as an FA Cup classic – an encounter that had it all with nine goals, a red card and late drama at both ends of the pitch as our Sky Bet League Two opponents embraced the magic of this special competition.
There’s no denying it was an almighty scare for the Reds and Ackroyd feels there are valuable lessons to take from the game heading into the next few weeks.
“It was a crazy game,” he discussed. “Obviously, we’ll look back at it and know there’s stuff in the game that we can do a lot better – controlling the game at 2-0 up, we need to try and shut up shop and keep possession and tire them out.
“But we’ve given them chances to get back and it was a crazy game, but thankfully we could see it out in the end.”
Ackroyd is the first academy graduate to have been given game-time under Poya Asbaghi, with several youngsters having been involved in first team training over the past couple of weeks as our Head Coach evaluates all of the options at his disposal.
His appearance this weekend is testament not just to his own dedication, but the hard work put in by the coaching staff within our youth system at Oakwell.
“I want to keep getting more opportunities, keep my feet on the ground and keep working hard,” asserted the 19-year-old. “I’ve still got a lot of things I can improve on in my game, so I just want to keep working hard and get some more opportunities.
“I came to the club when I was 10-years-old, and there’s a lot of stuff that you’ve got to get through. You’ve got to be mentally strong, resilient and keep working hard because you never know what can happen.
“I’ve kept working hard all these years and make a lot of sacrifices, but I’d do it all again a thousand times over to have that moment. So, you’ve got to keep working hard – all the young players out there – and you never know if you’re going to get your chance.”
You can watch Joe’s post-match interview exclusively on iFollow Barnsley.