EMMAISA Nzondo says scoring on his professional debut was an ‘amazing’ moment and now is hoping it leads to more opportunities in the Barnsley first team in the future.
The 17-year-old striker came off the bench to net the third goal in the Reds’ 3-1 home victory over Manchester City under 21s in the EFL Trophy at Oakwell on Tuesday.
Nzondo told the Chronicle: “It was amazing. What made it more special is my dad was there in the stands to see it.
“Not many 17-year-olds do what I have done. Just being around the first team is always a privilege but to come on and score is even better.
“I know what it’s like now and I want to push on, maybe make my league debut or FA Cup debut, and keep making an impact.”
Nzondo headed in Theo Chapman’s cross to make it 3-1.
“I just closed my eyes and hoped for the best. I thought it was going over. When it went in, it was pure relief.”
Nzondo joined the Reds at under 18s level for last season, having spent four years in the academy of hometown club Leeds United.
“Since I have come here I have felt welcome. It’s a family club. They have helped me a lot. I have to thank the club and staff.
“I had a point to prove after being released from Leeds. To come here, make my pro debut and get a goal is brilliant.”
Nzondo has enjoyed working under head coach Neill Collins. He said: “Neill is an exceptional coach and gaffer. He has helped me and made me feel welcome, speaking to me and giving me advice –and I have taken it on board.”
It was also a special night for Jonathan Bland, another 17-year-old who came off the bench to make his professional debut.
He is usually a midfielder but played at right wing-back as a ‘one-off’.
Bland, from Shrewsbury, told the Chronicle: “It was just as I imagined it. I have been thinking about this moment since I was very very small.
“I didn’t think I would be nervous.
“I have been on the bench a couple of times and I don’t really get nervous.
“But the moment I heard Steady (assistant coach Jon Stead) calling me over, I got really nervous. I just went into what I know and I thought I did well.
“In the second half, it was like an under 21s team with a lot of us from the under 18s side of last season. It’s good to see everyone progressing.”
Hayden Pickard, an 18-year-old left wing-back from Pontefract who has been at Oakwell since under 13s level, made his first start and assisted the second goal.
He told the Chronicle: “It was good to get my first professional start.
“I was buzzing with the achievement.
“I got on last year and I wanted to get on as many times as I could this season.
“I thought I played well but more importantly the team played amazing.
“It was a bit of a shock when I knew I was starting.
“I was in the analysis room, I saw my name pop up and couldn’t stop staring at it. I had to pinch myself. But I have to keep level-headed and keep cracking on.”