Elliot Simoes was delighted to continue his ‘crazy’ journey from non-league football last year via Barnsley’s under 23s to the Championship, in which he has scored two goals despite only starting three games. 

The 20-year-old forward – who got the only goal in the Reds’ win at QPR on Saturday – was signed in January 2019 from sixth tier FC United of Manchester and had to wait almost a year for his debut. Simoes told the Chronicle: “It has been quite crazy. It was only last year that I was non-league and now I am on a big stage. It is quite hard to believe it.”

Simoes, who was born in Portugal and spent time in the academies of Sporting Lisbon and Benfica, spent lockdown in Manchester but many of his family and friends were overseas. He said: “It was tough. I was worried like everyone else. I had to make sure I kept in contact with my family in Portugal and England. Everyone is alright. It wasn’t really a break. I was working hard knowing that, when we are back, we have a relegation battle. I kept my mind on the league and trained as hard as I could to make sure I was ready.”

Saturday’s match brought the professional debut of midfielder Romal Palmer.  Simoes said: “Romal is one of my closest friends in and out of football. To see him on the same pitch as me was incredible. It’s something we spoke about months ago when we were playing in the under 23s and now we have made it happen. It’s been a long wait for him with injuries but he has kept his head up and worked hard.”

The victory in London cut the gap to safety from seven to four points and moved Barnsley off the bottom of the table. Simoes said: “It was a very good feeling, knowing that we’re in a relegation battle and that we’ve come back with a win. It was very hard without fans but we won which is the most important thing. Every game right now is a final so we need to keep working hard. We just needed the first win. Now we need to keep going and we all believe we can stay in the league. Personally I just want to keep scoring goals and help the team.”