Aiden Marsh has gone from being released as a left-back by Sheffield United to, five years later, one of the most promising young attackers Barnsley have had in recent decades. 

The 16-year-old from Monk Bretton has been called up by England under 17s and appeared twice on the Reds’ first team bench in his first season after leaving school.  That follows the heartbreak of being released first by Barnsley at the age of eight then the Blades – who were a League One club at that point – three years later before returning to Oakwell. 

Striker Marsh told the Chronicle: “I had a season ticket in the East Stand Upper at Oakwell from the age of four and I used to go with my dad and granddad. My favourite player was Jamal Campbell-Ryce. I had always been a Barnsley fan so it was very hard to be released. But it wasn’t meant to be at that point. 

"I had three years with Sheffield United, and they used me as a left-back, but they said I was a bit too little and a bit weak. I was devastated when they let me go but it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. 

“I came back to Barnsley and they wanted me to play up front. Since then, I have never really looked back and I am really settled at my favourite club who I support. I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened. Being released twice at a young age has made me into the character that I am. It’s made me stronger as a person and a player.”

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Marsh was called up in November for a training camp with England under 17s who are coached by Kevin Betsy, the former Barnsley player. He said: “It was amazing to play with lads who have been playing for England for years and test myself against them.  I did two or three days of training with the possibility that I could go back in the future. It was good to train with people like Louie Barry (who moved to Aston Villa from Barcelona earlier this year) who is also a striker so I could get some tips off him.

“Most of the England under 17s were from the really big clubs and there were a few who said they didn’t know who Barnsley are. That just pushed me on to show them what we are all about as Barnsley lads. I was trying to do my best for the club and the town. I was talking to the coach Kevin Betsy who had a little stint at Barnsley but I can’t remember it. “There would have been a European Championship for the under 17s this summer but it has been cancelled.” 

A year ago, Marsh was preparing for his GCSEs, after which he took part in first team pre-season training under Daniel Stendel whose replacement Gerhard Struber put him on the bench for the 5-3 home win over QPR in December and the 3-0 victory at high-flying Fulham in February. He said: “It took a bit of adjusting when I first left school. I went straight out of school into a pre-season camp with the Barnsley first team. I had to take a day off for my prom. It took me a few weeks to adjust to full-time football but, after that, I have enjoyed it. The opportunities that I have been getting have been amazing. It’s not about how old you are, it’s just if they believe you are good enough. 

“I said to the gaffer after the QPR game that I must be the lucky charm. He laughed and agreed. Then we couldn’t believe the result at Fulham.  Obviously I would have liked to have come on but it was good to just be involved, not many people get that opportunity in the Championship at my age.  I have enjoyed working with the gaffer, he’s trusted me.  Tom Harban (under 18s coach) has been helping me ever since I have been at Barnsley, as a player and a person.  I have known Bobby Hassell for years and he’s helped me too. He has been there and done it for the club and he gives me a lot of advice.”

Marsh is also learning from the Reds’ top-scorer Cauley Woodrow. He said: “I clean Cauley’s boots and I have a good relationship with him. He’s been very helpful. He has told me a lot of tactics on the pitch and we’ve worked on taking penalties together. It’s great to work with such good-quality players.”  

Marsh is hoping to reach the top flight but is focusing on making his first team debut at Barnsley and helping them stay in the Championship. He said: “I am aiming as high as I can. Everybody dreams of playing in the Premier League but, being from Barnsley, my dream is to smash one in the Ponty End. Hopefully one day I can do that. I was on a good run of form before we stopped playing so I would like to get back to that. After being so close to my debut against QPR and Fulham, hopefully I can get out there one day and show fans what I have got. Everybody is determined to get back on and stay up. There is a togetherness in the team and everybody is working as hard as they can. Hopefully I can play my part in that but I just need to keep working hard and see where that takes me.”