Conor Chaplin would rather be a lower scorer in a promotion-chasing team than one of the top-scorers in a relegation scrap, but he hopes he can have the best of both worlds soon.
The 23-year-old netted 13 goals last season, when Barnsley stayed up on the last day, and has three in 33 games this campaign for the sixth-placed Reds. He told the Chronicle: “I 100 per cent prefer the way it has gone this season, without question. But I would rather have both and I will keep working until I get both. I will never be happy or satisfied with what I have got. But if you asked me which I would prefer, it is this position now.”
Chaplin and Cauley Woodrow netted more than half of Barnsley’s goals last season but, while Woodrow again has reached double figures, Chaplin is one of eight players with at least two goals.
“A lot of different players have been a match-winner this season, definitely more than last season. It’s not just forward- thinking players, the wing-backs and centre-backs and midfielders are scoring.”
Chaplin is one of six forwards who are being regularly rotated by head coach Valerien Ismael following the January arrivals of Carlton Morris and Daryl Dike. On the new pair, he said: “They have been fantastic. The goals have probably been the most important part but also the physical presence which we were probably short of before. Cauley was doing that job but he’s not a targetman, he’s a technical player and a goal-scorer.
“You see games like Cardiff and Birmingham, you know the kind of game it’s going to be before kick-off so it’s really helped in those games. Everyone wants to play every minute of every game.
“But the way we play and the schedule, you can’t think that’s going to be the case. We are one of the only teams who actually rotate like that. If you find out you’re not playing, there might be a tinge of disappointment but that soon goes because you know you will come on.”
Chaplin said at the start of the campaign, following last season’s final day survival from relegation, that the Reds were targeting finishing far higher in the table. He said: “We wanted to get to the 50-point mark and the gaffer was echoing that for a big part of the season. We’ve achieved that and we have no pressure now. We can afford ourselves the luxury of taking each game as it comes instead of having a big target. I definitely didn’t expect this this season, especially after the first seven games when we were without a win and our manager left. It’s great credit to the manager who has come in and made a big impact straight away.”
Barnsley have not played in front of fans for more than a year due to the coronavirus crisis. Chaplin said: “It doesn’t look like it will happen this season for us. I can’t wait and it gives me goosebumps thinking about fans coming back. I have seen the numbers of season tickets, above 1,000 in a week, which is unbelievable.
“There will be such a buzz when that time comes and I am very much looking forward to walking out at a full Oakwell.”