Luke Thomas believes that, in footballing terms, the break due to the lockdown then what is essentially a second pre-season may benefit both himself and Barnsley in their fight against the drop.

The Reds have one of the youngest squads in the EFL while very few of them had played in the Championship before this season and head coach Gerhard Struber has been trying to implement his style during a gruelling schedule since arriving in November. Should everything go to the plan of the football authorities, Barnsley will return to training on May 25 then restart the season at some point in June following three or four weeks of training.

Thomas told the Chronicle: “It could work in our favour.  The manager came in and all the fans and players have seen he’s good and he’s brought a lot to the team. I definitely think that a few more extra weeks will help us.”

Thomas has played 32 of Barnsley’s 37 Championship games this season, starting 21. The 21-year-old winger netted the Reds’ first goal of the season in their opening day 1-0 win at home to Fulham almost ten months ago, but is yet to score in the league since.  That victory – which was also Thomas’ debut – was followed by an 18-match winless run but, since Struber replaced Daniel Stendel, Barnsley have collected seven of their eight wins this season. They are still bottom of the Championship, seven points from safety with nine games to play. 

“It would be good to start again with a goal in the first game. That is definitely the highlight of my time at Barnsley so far. I don’t think I have reached the levels everybody expected and the fans haven’t seen the best of me yet. But, I am sure, when we’re back, I will be fit, firing and ready to go. During the lockdown, I have had some time to think about the season as a whole. I have been disappointed with myself and what I have offered to Barnsley. I have taken time to reflect on things I can do better, on and off the pitch. It’s been beneficial for me. I have been watching clips of recent games. I think I need to work on my end product.  I get myself into really good positions but I have been wasteful with opportunities for myself and for my team-mates.” 

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Thomas is reluctantly willing to accept playing games behind-closed-doors but would be devastated if the Championship season was cancelled and the table decided on a points-per-game basis, which would relegate the Reds. He said: “We all buzz off the fans when they are singing in numbers. But, if it’s not safe for them to do so, behind-closed-doors will be good as long as the fans can watch us on TV.  Hopefully they will be able to go to the ground again soon.  We would hate it if we went down on points-per-game. We believe we have a lot more to offer and a good chance to stay in the league. It would be heart-breaking to go down when you know you have a big chance of completing the great escape.  We all definitely still believe. It’s not ideal to be seven points adrift but nine games means there are a lot of points up for grabs and, if we win two or three on the spin, we are right back in it.” 

Thomas is looking forward to returning to Oakwell, should it happen, although he admits it will be odd observing the two-metre social distancing rule and knows some of the public will not understand why training is restarting.  He said: “It (social distancing) will be really weird and pretty boring. The only thing we can probably do is running, which is not fun. But that will just be like the first week of a normal pre-season then, hopefully after that, we can interact with the other players and play football. I speak to the lads most days. We are all a bit bored and fed up now.

"We can’t wait to get back training then playing, with the banter of the dressing room. But we can only do that when it is safe to do so for everybody. We will all be excited to be back but everyone is wary of the virus because it is so deadly and sadly has taken so many lives.  There is a long way to go before we are back playing. If the experts are happy for us to go back, then that’s what we have been waiting for.  Football is not a big priority because there are people dying every day.  But, if we are told to go back to work on a certain date, we will all be there.”

Thomas lives in Sheffield with his girlfriend and dog.  He said: “I think I am driving my family and my girlfriend mad. Doing nothing is quite hard and very boring.  Going out and doing some exercise, set by the club, is probably the highlight of my day. It’s so boring watching TV without any sport on.  I have been learning to cook which I wasn’t very good at before. My girlfriend is a good cook so she’s been teaching me and I’ve got a lot better. The best thing I have made is a cheesy pasta Bolognese.  It’s amazing and it’s my favourite dish at the moment.”