A month ago, weeks before players were allowed to return to training, Chaplin told the Chronicle that he didn’t understand why finishing the season without fans was being discussed and that he ‘didn’t agree with’ returning to football while the rest of the country was in lockdown.
The 23-year-old striker, who has 12 goals in 38 appearances in all competitions since moving from Coventry City in July last year, has been back at Oakwell for the last two weeks, preparing for the Championship season which is now due to start on June 20.
Chaplin told the Chronicle: “I was a big believer that we should wait until the fans can come back but it’s not possible because of health and safety. Playing behind-closed-doors is the right move and it’s the only way that this season can finish then next season can start. Fingers crossed the supporters will be back next year but it’s all up in the air. As soon as the tests were made available for the players, I wanted to come back. We are being tested twice a week.”
Players such as Charlton Athletic striker Lyle Taylor and Watford’s Troy Deeney have said they don’t want to train and play in the current conditions. Chaplin said: “I respect their opinions but I don’t feel the same. Personally I just want to play football as soon as possible. None of us have experienced it before so everyone will have different emotions.”
Some clubs, such as Barnsley’s next scheduled opponents QPR, have criticised the new schedule – with nine games in five weeks – and the way the EFL announced it with limited notice on Sunday evening. Chaplin said: “I have seen there has been quite a lot of bother about that. But, in terms of the lads at Barnsley, we all had a responsibility to look after ourselves in lockdown and a lot of us are fitter than we would be during a season anyway because we have been doing so much training at home off our own bat. “It’s a generational thing as well, footballers always look after themselves now. Everyone will be fresh and raring to go. All the Barnsley players I have spoken want to get to the 20th and start playing games. We’re all expecting to start then.”
The Reds are seven points adrift of safety, at the bottom of the division, with nine games remaining which are likely to be fit into a five-week schedule. Co-owner Paul Conway has said he will challenge any relegation legally but Chaplin says the players are just thinking about football. He said: “All we’re thinking about is the 27 points, there’s no ‘what about this?’ or ‘what about that?’. It’s black and white how we can stay up. We are not naive enough to think seven points isn’t a big gap but it is as gap that can be turned around in three games and we have nine of them. We have nothing to lose, no one expects anything of us except ourselves.
“We will be looking to get out of the relegation zone. It’s not 100 per cent finished or a foregone conclusion, there is a lot more to come from this squad. There will be teams coming back with nothing to play for, teams who have a little wobble and teams that start looking over their shoulder. Football is a crazy game. We’re just looking forward to those nine games and giving it everything we can.”
Chaplin spent Tuesday afternoon talking to supporters on the phone about the new season tickets for 2020/21, as part of the club’s drive for first team players to contact all season ticket holders. He said: “I’m not sure how many people don’t have their phones on them because I left about 16 voicemails but the fans I spoke to were good. They had a lot of questions about what’s going on. It was good to get their point of view and good for them to hear about how things are going at Oakwell. I didn’t know much about the finance scheme on the season tickets so I had to ask some of the other staff in the ticket office. But all the fans were really nice. You realise how much the club means to people and how much of a difference not going to games has made.”