NICKY Eaden says he has been trying to return to Barnsley as a coach for 15 years and is delighted that everything has fallen into place for him to come back.
The Hoyland man came through the Oakwell youth system in the early 1990s and played more than 300 games for the Reds including in their 1997/98 Premier League season. He has now returned as an academy coach, mainly with the under 18s.
Eaden told the Chronicle: “I have been trying to come back to Barnsley pretty much since I finished playing and started coaching. But it hasn’t happened for one reason or another. Jobs came up here a few times but the timing was just not quite right. This time it just fell into place. The job suits me. I am back home, back where I belong. It feels like it’s my club. I have such a massive connection with it since being here aged 14.”
Eaden, who recently spent two years coaching at an academy in Jamaica, has previously been involved in the youth set-ups at Coventry City and Leicester City. He said: “It’s an age group I enjoy working with. With the first team roles I have had, at times I haven’t found much enjoyment in them. You don’t get the time to improve players. You can do that in development football, even though results are still a part of it.
“You try to bring their personality out, improve them tactically, technically and physically to make them ready for the first team.”
Eaden has been pleased with the attitude of his new under 18s.
“They are a good group. They have a lot of creative and attack-minded players. I think they will always score goals. But the most pleasing thing is the work-rate because that fits in with what Barnsley has always been about.
“When I was coming through, application was the bare minimum and, if you didn’t have that, it wasn’t tolerated.
“These players really apply themselves and work for each other.
“The academy still has the same principles as when I was here.
“They are bringing through players who work hard and have passion for the club, which I am not sure the first team has always had in the last few years.”
Eaden is happy to be working under academy manager Bobby Hassell as well as new first team head coach Michael Duff who arrived in the summer.
“I have kept an eye on the club since I left. I looked at the appointments over the last few years and thought ‘this could be anything’ – sometimes they worked, and sometimes they didn’t.
“This is the first one for a while when, even before I came back to the club, I thought: ‘yeah, good solid appointment.’ It might not happen overnight but I just hope he brings a bit of stability to the club and gets things back heading in the right direction.”
Eaden was part of a group of local youngsters who took the Reds to the Premier League but, more recently, the number of Barnsley lads playing for the first team had dwindled until the debuts of Aiden Marsh and Joe Ackroyd this year. Eaden said: “In the last 20 years, it’s been a little bit barren for young local lads coming through – apart from John Stones but he left pretty quickly.
“It’s great to have local lads.
“I went to play for different clubs but you never have the same connection.
“Hopefully we can bring some through.”
Eaden lost some of his passion for football after spells as manager of non-league clubs Nuneaton Borough, Hednesford Town and Kettering Town.
He left the sport to work for a landscape gardening firm before moving to Jamaica. He said: “I had come off a couple of bad experiences at first team level. I was a bit disillusioned with the industry. I had 18 months out of the game then two years in Jamaica which was something totally different.
“I enjoyed it a lot but it was the other side of the world. It got me back on the grass coaching youngsters, which is what I am good at, and now I can do that at Barnsley.”
Nick Colgan, the former Reds goalkeeper, has also been appointed as academy goalkeeping coach.