Liam Kitching is hoping to be the latest centre-back Barnsley turn into a Championship star after signing from the lower leagues.
The 21-year-old signed last week from League Two club Forest Green Rovers until 2024 with the Reds having an option to keep him for a further year. He has not been training this week due to a groin issue but could return next week.
Kitching told the Chronicle: “The injury is just a little setback. I probably won’t be ready for the weekend but hopefully next week.
“I just want to get experience at this level and see what I can do in the second half of the season.
“It’s always hard or difficult to come to a new club but all the players have made me feel welcome. I have had a bit of time to get to know the players.
“When the move came about, I was shocked.
“I didn’t think twice, I just wanted to get the move done as soon as possible and prove I can play in the Championship.
“You can tell around the place, there is a good feeling and the spirits are high. They are going in the right direction as a club.”
The last player to sign for Barnsley from Forest Green was Kitching’s fellow centre-back Ethan Pinnock who proved extremely popular – helping the Reds to promotion then moving to Brentford.
Other centre-backs to have been plucked from the lower leagues by Barnsley before succeeding in the Championship include Marc Roberts, Alfie Mawson and Angus MacDonald.
Kitching said of Pinnock: “From what I heard of him, he was a brilliant player and I want to follow in his footsteps.
“I know the club has a good record with centre-backs and I am always striving for success.”
Kitching, originally from Harrogate, played 53 games for League Two Forest Green – known for being a vegan club – after leaving Leeds United in 2019.
“It was brilliant. I got a lot of good experience and the manager (Mark Cooper) brought me on a long way.
“It was a good learning curve.
“It is different because of the vegan lifestyle at the club and the food you are given. But it’s not as bad as people think.
“It’s definitely good to be back in Yorkshire. I loved my time away but I do prefer it up north.”
Kitching came through the Leeds United academy with current Barnsley player Clarke Oduor while he also played alongside Aapo Halme and was at the club at the same time as Reds captain Alex Mowatt.
“I know them so it’s always nice when you come to a club to know lads who can show you around the place.
“I never played with Aapo because I was out on loan when he came in, but I grew up with Clarke from when I was seven or eight years old until I left when I was 19.
“I can remember when I was a ballboy, I used to watch Alex Mowatt play for the Leeds first team and look up to him, so it will be good to play with him now.”
Centre-back is now a packed position in the Barnsley squad.
Michael Sollbauer, Michal Helik and Mads Andersen have started the majority of games this season while also in contention are Aapo Halme, who is almost back from injury, Toby Sibbick, who has returned from loan in Belgium, and youngster Jasper Moon, who made his debut last month, while Jordan Williams can also play there.
“It’s always good to have healthy competition. We will help each other to become better players.”
Asked to describe himself as a player, Kitching said: “I like to get on the ball and play.
“But the most important thing is to do my defensive work and keep a clean sheet.”
The defender is looking forward to working under former Bayern Munich centre-back Valerien Ismael who is now the Reds head coach.
Kitching said: “The manager has spoken to me about how he wants me to play in and out of possession. I can’t wait to play under him. He seems like a great coach.
“It’s always nice knowing that the person coaching you has got all the experience in the world.”