NEILL Collins admits Barnsley are trying to address a lack of physicality in defence in January while director of football Bobby Hassell expects teen star Fabio Jalo to make a decision on a new contract during the month.

The transfer window officially opens on Monday when the Reds are also due to host Wigan Athletic.

Barnsley, who visit Peterborough United tonight, are currently seventh in League One – one place outside the play-off places after winning 2-1 at home to Stevenage on Saturday then 3-2 at Port Vale on Boxing Day.

The Reds are not expected to make a raft of incoming signings in the window but are prioritising central defence, with at least one signing in that position expected. Jordan Williams, Mael de Gevigney and Jamie McCart have been the regular back three, with Kacper Lopata on the bench recently after returning from injury.

Head coach Collins told the Chronicle: “When you consider what we lost from last season and how we were able to address that, with Liam (Kitching) leaving on the last day of the window, centre-back is somewhere where a little additional support won’t do us any harm.

“Jordan, Mael and Jamie have done really well, that’s a big part of why we’ve had good results. They bring other things but there’s no question that, at times, we have lacked physicality.

“You don’t have many players at this level who have everything otherwise they wouldn’t be at this level.

“Kacper has been out and is only just back.

“It’s difficult to go straight back in when everyone else is up to speed.

“Physicality will help but it’s most important they are good players.”

Players out of contract at the end of the season include top-scorer Devante Cole, captain Williams and regular starters Nicky Cadden and Herbie Kane.

There has been speculation particularly around the futures of Cole and Williams in this window but the chairman Neerav Parekh has said they are ‘extremely unlikely’ to be sold and it would take a ‘silly’ bid.

Jalo, 18, has a contract that runs until the summer of 2025 but the Reds are hoping to extend it, with the Portugal under 19 on the bench regularly for the first team and attracting interest from other clubs. Although acting director of football Hassell has not been tasked with negotiating new deals with the more senior players, he is playing a key role in trying to secure a long-term contract for Jalo having known him from his time as academy manager.

Hassell told the Chronicle: “I am in negotiations with the family who I am close to. His family are very trusting of myself and, without that relationship, he wouldn’t be here now.

“There is a lot of interest from other clubs but nothing concrete.

“We are showing him the pathway of playing 50 to 100 games here before he moves on.

“His dad is an ex-player who was in a similar situation to Fabio and agents messed his career up. He knows it’s best for his son to be here.

“It’s just a negotiation in terms of the best contract we can offer him and what the family are happy with.

“Hopefully by early or mid-January we will know if he is going to commit his future to the club or not.”

Jalo has made 22 first team appearances, scoring three cup goals, but is still waiting for his first league goal or start.

Hassell said: “I think he’s been managed perfectly. He’s still classed as a scholar. He’s close to 25 games with four or five starts (in all competitions).

“It will come to a stage where the manager has to decide whether he starts some games. He does take ten or 15 minutes to get going, he’s always been like that. He’s unique for Barnsley – I don’t think there’s anyone in the academy or first team who can carry the ball like he can.”

Players who are not playing first team football, such as defender Conor McCarthy, are likely to be loaned out in the January window.