Kenny Dougall is hoping to establish himself in the Barnsley starting line-up for the rest of a season which could end with him facing the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. 

Australia are a guest nation in this summer’s Copa America, the South American championship in which they have been drawn in a group that also includes Argentina and Uruguay.  Dougall has been called up for two Australia squads since joining the Reds in 2018 but is yet to make his international debut. He told the Chronicle: “It would be great to get in that squad and it’s only a few months away now. It is something that is in my sights and hopefully I can stay in the Barnsley team then get in the national team.”

Dougall was out for six months with an injury picked up in March 2019 but then started all five games under caretaker Adam Murray in September and October. New head coach Gerhard Struber has preferred Aapo Halme in defensive midfield and started Dougall in only four of his 13 league matches, including both games this week due to the absence of Bambo Diaby which meant Halme moved back.

“You are always at your best when you play week in, week out. I have had a couple of long-term injuries which hasn’t helped my Barnsley career too much. When Adam Murray came in, I got some games in and found some form but I have been in and out under the new gaffer which has been frustrating. But you just have to take your chance when you get it.“I like to think I offer something a bit different. It’s the gaffer’s choice who he plays and he’s picked Aapo ahead of me in most of the games. I will train hard to try to change that. It’s difficult when you’re not in the team. I got my chance and hopefully the gaffer was impressed. 

“All I can do is do my best when I get a chance. Technically I am quite good so my passing forward and break-up play are my key attributes, and that is what I have to do in that role. It’s nothing different to what I have done before. “The hardest part is that we have been struggling. If the team is doing well you can’t complain but it is frustrating when you’re not playing but the team is struggling. You think ‘I can do better than him or him’. But we are together and united as a group.”

Dougall is looking forward to tomorrow’s FA Cup trip to Portsmouth. He said: “The relegation fight is the main priority, that’s obvious. Realistically we’re not going to win the FA Cup. I think the most ambitious fan will probably agree with me there. But it’s a fantastic competition and obviously, the further you go, it’s great for the club and the fans and it’s more games  for us players. Against Crewe (a 3-1 win in the third round earlier this month), a couple of players like myself got a chance again and that’s what it’s about. Hopefully we can go to a full Fratton Park and give the fans a show.” 

Dougall’s contract is due to run out in the summer, although the club has an option to extend it by a further year.