MARTIN Devaney says he has felt emotional being in the Barnsley dugout since he was appointed as first team coach and is hoping to play a part in their survival from relegation this season.
The former winger, 41, played 176 games for the Reds then settled in the town – working as the club’s under 18s and under 23s coach.
He was promoted to the first team set-up at Christmas and has been working under Poya Asbaghi since, along with fellow first team coaches Ferran Sibila and Jo Laumann, while he is still overseeing the under 23s.
Devaney told the Chronicle: “I have worked really hard to get to this point over the last six years.
“I have had opportunities to go into other first team environments but I love Barnsley and that’s where I want to be.
“All my life I have had to fight for things – to be a footballer and have the career I had. It’s the same as a coach.
“I am a fighter and set high standards for myself and people around me.
“I am not fazed by it, I enjoy it.”
Devaney’s first game was the 5-4 FA Cup win over Barrow, during a January when several of the coaching staff missed matches with Covid-19.
“The first game was quite emotional for me because I have worked a long time for it and every time I am in that dugout I feel really proud.
“I have learned from a lot of different people and gone on as many courses as I can. I have had a growth mindset and I think that’s put me in a good position to help Poya and the club win football matches.
“I am thankful to Khaled (El-Ahmad, the chief executive) for giving me the opportunity and I am looking forward to the next steps.
“It’s obviously been intense with the back-to-back games but I enjoy the challenge. The staff have helped me settle in really well.
“I definitely see my future as a coach in first team football.
“I loved the development side but I am ready for the first team environment now. I love the competitiveness.
“I am looking forward to the next few years and we’ll see what happens.
“I am just thinking about keeping the club in the Championship at the moment.”
Barnsley have promoted several players from their under 23s squad to the first team this season, with Devaney playing a key role in that.
“I am looking after them and making sure the transition from the 23s is a lot smoother.
“I have worked with the younger players, know them and their strengths and weaknesses.
“That helps when you need to rely on these individuals.
“The ownership is on me to help them step up to the first team which is a big step up.
“That’s part of my job.
“I like to think I help a lot to keep the environment positive as well.”
The Reds collected just 14 points from their first 29 games but doubled that tally in eight matches which cut the gap to safety from nine to two points, before it increased to five after a loss at Sheffield United on Saturday.
They are now halfway through a two-week international break before hosting fourth-bottom Reading on April 2.
Devaney said: “We will fight until the last game.
“It was disappointing on Saturday but we will keep positive and keep working hard.
“We know Reading is a big game but I am sure we can make Oakwell a hostile environment for them.
“The fans have been excellent and stuck with us and I am sure they will again in that game.”
Devaney spent much of his career in the Championship – including some successful relegation fights with Barnsley – so can add a knowledge of the division to the coaching staff who have otherwise come from overseas.
“Hopefully with my experience as a player and knowing the environment and culture of Barnsley Football Club, I can add something and help us get over the line.
“It’s just about being calm.
“My memory of the relegation fights I was involved in is that you need players to stand up and be brave and confident.
“I will be helping the players to have that mentality and make sure that they all want to be the hero in those games and make everyone happy.
“I have been heavily involved since the first day I started working with Poya and his staff, they are open to my ideas.
“Anything they are unsure on, I will give my opinion on.
“We’re all working hard to make sure we stay in the league.”
Devaney has enjoyed working under Asbaghi, saying: “I am learning all the time.
“I see how intense and diligent he is. He makes sure the lads are prepared tactically.
“There is a lot of detail that goes into it. He’s very clear with how he presents to the players. I have learned a lot from him and Ferran and Jo and the other staff.
“For some managers, players pick up on what they are saying straight away. It’s taken a little bit longer than we would have liked. But there were a lot of injuries and Covid cases.
“Now the performances have been good, we have got wins that bring confidence. The players are playing how he wants and it’s going a lot better.”