LUCA Connell is looking forward to returning to former club Bolton Wanderers tomorrow while relishing the competition for places in Barnsley’s midfield.

The midfielder started his career at Bolton as a teenager when they were relegated from the Championship in 2018/19 amid financial crisis, before moving to Celtic who he left this year to join the Reds.

Connell told the Chronicle: “Bolton was all I knew as a kid. I was there from age seven to 18. My whole life was travelling to Bolton four or five times a week. My spell in the first team helped me. I was young when I got exposed to men’s football and, the way the club was at the time, it wasn’t easy.

“I have been to Celtic and Barnsley now and had an easier time.

“But the Bolton experience was good for my character and mentality.

“All the staff and players were good with me. They were all older and had families to look after so it was hard.

“For me, I was a 17-year-old just having the time of my life. It was a very good level to play at at that age.”

He added: “I am looking forward to going back and I am excited. There are a couple of old faces. One of the lads I did my scholarship with is the kitman now.

“When I left the club, it wasn’t in the best of positions. Thankfully they have turned it around.”

The Trotters were relegated to League Two in 2020 but are now seventh in League One, a place behind the Reds.

“They have had a similar season to us so far, with similar points.

“We know they are good but we will prepare like we do for every game and hopefully get a good result.”

Connell was called up for the Republic of Ireland under 21s last month but did not go on international duty after picking up an injury. Since returning, he has been on the Reds bench with Herbie Kane and Josh Benson starting. Along with Adam Phillips and Matty Wolfe, Connell is one of several options for head coach Michael Duff in a strong midfield contingent.

“It was frustrating.

“I thought I had a good run but I picked up a niggle and Herbie and Josh have been brilliant. We have Adam, and also Wolfie to come back from injury.

“We have five good midfielders fighting for two positions so it’s going to be tough but the competition helps us all.

“We just push each other in training every day.”