It has been a productive six months for Daniel Jinadu since signing on the dotted line at Oakwell following his departure from West Ham United.
The young goalkeeper caught the eye during a trial period with our U23s squad, particularly impressing in an outing against Millwall back in April when his ability to read the game as a sweeper-keeper played a key role in the only goal that afternoon as Aiden Marsh eventually slotted home after a swift counter-attack.
Since then, he has been heavily involved in our first team set-up, training regularly with senior goalkeepers, Brad Collins and Jack Walton, as he continues to learn as much as he can and potentially force his way into reckoning.
“It’s been a good experience being involved with the first team squad and just learning from the players and staff here, from the other goalkeepers,” began Dan. “Every day when I train with Brad and Jack, it’s really good and they’re great goalkeepers, so just learning from them and developing as a young goalkeeper has been excellent so far.
“It was my goal at the start of the season to be involved and get more opportunities in and around the first team squad – hopefully make the bench and hopefully make my debut this season. Those are the goals that I set myself at the start of the season.”
His time with the Reds hasn’t been completely plain sailing though, as a training injury sustained a few months back left him sidelined and with his knee in a brace.
However, he has since cleared that hurdle and is eager to get some game time under his belt once more and show what he can do – especially with a couple of U23s fixtures on the horizon this month.
“I feel really good now,” he discussed. “Getting back from injury was a tough period, but I stayed disciplined and consistent and was able to get back. Now, in training, I feel sharp and good; I feel confident in my ability to perform, and I feel ready for what’s next.
“Whether that’s playing in the under 23s or going on loan or being available for the first team – anything.
“With the injury and everything and being away from the pitch, right now I’m raring to go. I can’t wait to just be back out there, playing games and showing what I’ve got. I feel there’s a lot that I can produce and bring to the table, and I just can’t wait to showcase that in the games.”
With Jack unavailable for our trip to Preston last month, Dan was named amongst the substitutes for the first time – a big moment for him in his career as he travelled with the squad to Deepdale.
The occasion was, of course, documented by our 19-year-old on his YouTube channel Beyond Football and he is relishing the prospect of being involved in a first team matchday once more in the future.
“It was amazing; it’s what dreams are made of, to be honest,” reflected Dan. “When I found out, I was so gassed. On those journeys, it’s just those lights at the end of the tunnel – especially after getting injured and all the years of work.
“It’s motivation because it shows that all the hard work over the years have paid off. Just walking on the pitch and seeing the fans there, playing in a big stadium – these are the things that you dream about when you’re younger and teams you play against on FIFA when you’re younger.
“The whole experience of being on the bench at such a high level of football was inspirational and motivated me and made me hungrier for more to push to want to play in stadiums like that.”
Moments like that all part of Dan’s overall development, and during the week he can learn from two talented goalkeepers on a daily basis at the Oakwell training ground.
While Brad and Jack may share many similarities in terms of ability, they both possess their own individual qualities, and our young stopper is keen to pick up as many traits as possible from his counterparts.
“They’re both very good and very good in different areas,” insisted Dan. “With Brad, it’s just his composure and calmness on the ball is really something that I’ve been trying to add to my game and, with Jack, it’s his general shot-stopping ability and hard work.
“It’s really motivational being in and around those two day in, day out. The aim is to get those good aspects from them and develop them so I can add them to my game.”
Prior to his arrival at Oakwell, Dan had trained with a host of top goalkeepers during his time in east London with the Hammers.
Amongst those names at Rush Green were England and Poland internationals competing for a place in between the sticks, as well as going up against Premier League forwards in sessions.
“When I was a scholar at West Ham, I trained with the first team a couple of times and I went on a training camp to Switzerland, so I was able to train with keepers such as Joe Hart, Adrián and Łukasz Fabiański, so I had really good experiences there and training with high level goalkeepers,” he recalled.
“All of those goalkeepers, the intensity which they work at and professionalism in training really taught me how sharp they are in and around the goal, their ability to move around the goal quickly.
“I was training with the first team when I was 17, so at first it was a big jump in terms of the intensity, sharpness and shot power especially. The difference in shot power from the under 18s to the first team like Michail Antonio and Marko Arnautović was so much sharper than my own age group at the time.
“It was about getting up to that sharpness and making sure I was strong enough and brave enough to face shots.”
The move to South Yorkshire is the first time that Dan has been away from his family and friends, but he has coped well with the situation and slotted in seamlessly to the Oakwell changing room.
Frequently seen playing table-tennis with Jasper Moon, the two have developed a close bond – as has fellow prospect, Will Hondermarck – as they all look to establish themselves under Poya Asbaghi.
“It’s been good,” asserted Dan. “It’s a change of environment and my first time living away from home, consistently for football. I feel like I’ve adapted well and quite enjoyed it, just being able to focus directly on my football.
“It’s a good life experience; I’ve been able to be more independent and care for myself, make my own food and everything. The people around Barnsley and the club have been amazing – there’s been nothing but good vibes, so I can’t complain.
“Me, Jasper and Will are usually together and it’s really good to have that relationship together when we’re in and around the club.
“There’s a lot of young players in and around the first team dressing room, so we all just bounce off each other and drive each other to strive for excellence – whether that be out on the pitch, we just make sure none of us are slacking and make sure we have high standards for each other.
“For example, maybe Jasper wants to work on something, or I want to work on something, we try and find drills on the training ground after the session has finished just to do extra work to work on those areas and make sure we’re doing our gym sessions.
“There’s lots of friendly banter, too, and we’re just maintaining those excellent standards.”
Overseeing Dan’s develop and helping him to keep up those aforementioned standards is first team goalkeeper coach, Tom Fawdry, who arrived at Oakwell in October.
Not only is he a mentor on the training ground, but Tom also provides advice off the pitch to help our youngster cope with the psychological demands of football – a topic that Dan is keen to highlight.
“It’s been good working with Tom,” he praised. “As soon as he came in, he really helped me on my journey coming back from injury. We were doing sessions on the indoor and sessions outside to get me back up to fitness.
“He’s really good at working on handling around the goal and shot-stopping; he uses techniques where he focuses on moving balls and not just stationary balls, which has been different, but it’s been a good difference in that we’re able to deal with shots that are match realistic.
“Tom has also studied psychology in the past, so I’m able to speak with him about stuff like that off the pitch and how that influences things on the pitch and in-game situations.
“It’s very important; it’s a growing topic in football. I don’t feel like it’s where it should be yet, but I feel like it’s growing. The same way we build our physical aspects of the game, like jumping and strength, I feel like we still need to build the mental side of the game through aspects of psychological techniques such as visualisation and preparation.
“If more and more players and clubs added this to their game, it could take the football to a higher level.”
The mental aspect has been a subject for discussion on Dan’s YouTube channel and, as an aspiring sports psychologist when he hangs his gloves up in the future, he is keen to share his experiences with younger players.
And he’s well on course to achieving that career, having attained a first class mark in his first year studying psychology at the University of East London (distance learning, of course).
“That’s my aim for the future; highlighting the importance of having the mental side of the game and how it can impact you growing up,” said Dan.
“In the academy system, I found – especially being a goalkeeper – being able to control your emotions and being able to control things like mental toughness, your concentration during the game and bouncebackability – are what separates average players from the best players.
“Growing up, me dealing with making a mistake as a goalkeeper was tough to handle, but as I got older, working with club psychologists I was able to use breathing techniques and positive self-taught methods to help me focus on the next thing, so the mistake I made didn’t affect the next thing I did in the game or training situation, and that really helped my performance.
“So, through my YouTube channel, I highlight the importance of having an identity beyond football. I focus on taking people on the journey of me. My aim is to inspire the younger generation that you can be successful in both professional football and education.”