Wayne Rooney’s name went through Victor Adeboyejo’s head when the Barnsley striker fired in his first Championship goal to subject the former England captain’s team to a defeat.
The 22-year-old striker came off the bench to net an excellent 22-yard strike following a superb counter-attack and secure a 2-0 victory over Derby County, for whom England’s record goal-scorer played the full game.
Adeboyejo told the Chronicle: “When I was at school, we used to shout ‘Rooney!’ when we were about to shoot in the playground. When I was about to shoot in Derby, in my head, I said: ‘Rooney!’
“Then it went in.
“He is someone who me and a lot of my friends looked up to when we were younger so to play on the same pitch as him was a special feeling.”
The goal was Adeboyejo’s first for the Reds since December 2018 when he scored against Manchester City under 23s in the Checkatrade Trophy, having netted in both of his first two games for the club at the start of that League One season.
He made 31 appearances during that promotion campaign but was loaned out last season to Bristol Rovers, for whom he netted twice in 30 appearances but only six were League One starts, and League Two Cambridge United where he played a further eight matches without scoring. Adeboyejo has been at Oakwell for three years but his contract is set to expire in the summer.
“It was a special moment. I scored a few in League One but to be back with the team and to get that first Championship goal is really good.
“It has been a long wait and I have had to fight to get into the team but, since the manager has come in, he has given me an opportunity and the players have helped me to settle back in.
“It was really nice to repay them all.
“It hasn’t been easy. As a young player, you have to battle with being out of the team but I was working on developing myself and getting more consistent.
“I feel that my relationship with God helped me to focus and not get distracted by people saying negative things.
“I probably didn’t show the best of myself out on loan last season but I always believed I could come back to Barnsley and get another chance.”
Adeboyejo was put back into the first team squad by previous boss Gerhard Struber who brought him off the bench in the EFL Cup against Nottingham Forest in September – the first game of the season – and in the Championship at Middlesbrough, the Austrian’s final match before moving to New York.
Struber has been replaced by Valerian Ismael who, after the striker recovered from injury, has brought Adeboyejo off the bench in his last two games.
“As soon as I got the ball, I knew I had to go for goal. The manager has told me to get my shots off. He has taken me in and not been afraid to play me, and he’s filled me with a lot of confidence as well as a lot of the other staff who have helped me through a difficult period.
“I just needed that first goal and hopefully there are many more opportunities to play and many more goals to come.
“From the first day I arrived, I have always felt Barnsley is where I need to be at this point in my life.”