AAPO Halme admits it has been difficult to start just five league games in the last two seasons but is pleased to have returned from his latest injury.

The Finnish centre-back, 23, injured his toe during the Reds’ win at local rivals Sheffield Wednesday in December 2020 and started just one more game – at home to Rotherham in April – that season. He started back-to-back matches in September this season, the draws against Stoke and Blackburn, but suffered an ankle injury which kept him out for more than three months.

He played the first 45 minutes in the FA Cup at Huddersfield last month but has been an unused substitute in the three league games since then.

Of his 31 league starts for the club, 26 were in his first season – the 2019/20 campaign.

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Halme told the Chronicle: “It has not been ideal. I have played some games then I get injuries or I am on the bench.

“I just try to get myself back in the team.”

Halme’s contract is due to expire in the summer, but Barnsley have an option to keep him for another year.

He told the Chronicle: “I do think about it but I can’t really say much.

“We’ll see. Every time I play I like it but when I don’t play it’s not nice.”

Halme was part of the squad that came from nine points adrift with 14 games left to stay up two years ago. The Reds are again nine adrift with 14 games left.

He says the 2020 ‘great escape’ has been mentioned in team meetings.

“It was unbelievable what we did.

“I believe and everyone believes it is possible again.

“The belief is the same this time, maybe the squad is a bit younger but there is still a lot of quality.”

On his latest injury, Halme said: “It was really frustrating.

“At first we thought it was a two- or three-week injury but I was out for three and a half months

“We maybe missed little bits in the beginning and there was some bone damage. We thought it was a normal ankle injury but it took a little bit longer.

“It was tough to not play.

“But the lads are supportive so it’s not like I am left out of the group.

“It feels like a normal foot now so fingers crossed everything goes well.

“It has been very challenging but now, when I play, I enjoy it more after the hard times.”

Halme admits it was frustrating to be out as Barnsley sank to the bottom of the Championship.

“It’s not easy, you want to win every game. It’s very difficult to watch your team losing a lot of games.

“With the new manager, it has got a bit better and now everyone feels positive. There has always been confidence.

“We just keep going game by game.”