LUKE Thomas knew he had to up his fitness and motivation levels for Barnsley this season which is ‘massive’ for his future with the Reds but also in football.

The 23-year-old midfielder took a break from football last year, partly due to mental health issues. After a confidence-boosting loan at League Two Bristol Rovers last season, he worked hard on his fitness over the summer and has been a regular starter for the Reds so far this season.

Thomas told the Chronicle: “I definitely thought that, if I didn’t sort my motivation and fitness out, I might not keep doing this for much longer.

“I can’t emphasise enough how massive this year is for me. I am out of contract at the end of this season but, in general, the time goes so quick even though I am still 23. I knew I had to knuckle down and perform again.”

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Thomas added: “I struggled to find motivation to get fit for a long time but now I am much fitter and the most motivated I have ever been. The guys at Bristol Rovers helped me a lot and then I did a lot of very long runs to get my fitness up for this season. I always wanted to come back to Barnsley and thankfully it’s a clean slate under a new manager.

“Everyone can see how happy, engaged and talkative I am. I haven’t been like that at Barnsley before.”

Thomas netted the winner in the first home game of the season against his former club Cheltenham Town.

“It was a massive confidence boost to score but just to be playing week in week out is great and long may it continue.

“All my game is based on delivering goals and assists. Hopefully I can be one of the main creators this season.”

Thomas welcomes the competition provided by fellow attacking midfielder Josh Martin who was brought in this week.

“Competition is healthy and much better. You don’t want it to be easy. It will make me perform better and get the best out of him as well.”

Barnsley visit local rivals Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow. They won their last game at Hillsborough, behind-closed-doors in 2020, in which Thomas played.

He said: “I remember that well. It was a great result and hopefully it’s the same again on Saturday but with fans which will be even better.

“Wednesday have a very good team and have made a very good start.

“There are bragging rights for the fans and players. It would be nice to go there and shut them up.

“We went to Ipswich and got a point and I don’t think many teams will do that so that gives us confidence going to Sheffield. We want three points.”