BARNSLEY under 18s are looking to follow up an 8-0 win with a big week as they visit local rivals Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday then Coventry City in the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday.
They won 8-0 at home to Peterborough United on Saturday. An own goal was followed by four goals from Luke Alker then one from Ziggy Kozluk – son of former Red Rob who was assisted by Grant McCann’s son Bayley – and two by Jonathan Bland.
It was a fourth successive win – with the last game of 2023 being a 5-0 success over Tottenham Hotspur – which took them to within two points of leaders Birmingham City.
Coach Nicky Eaden said: “It was a close as you will get to a complete performance.
“With and without the ball, the lads were excellent and they mixed their game up between being patient and quick in attacks.
“Our goalkeeper only had one save to make.
“We won’t get too carried away because Peterborough are bottom of the league.
“But not every team has beaten them like that.
“The lads were ruthless. You don’t get many chances to win by that kind of scoreline so it was good for them to do it.”
Four-goal hero Alker is a first team scholar who signed from Leeds United at the end of last season.
Eaden said: “He works so hard with his pressing and he has a bit of an edge which is what you need if you can channel it the right way which he is doing.”
The under 18s now visit mid-table Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.
Eaden said: “As soon as we came back after Christmas, I said to the lads we had a big month coming up.
“It will go a long way to seeing where we end up this season.
“We play both Sheffield clubs and play in the youth cup as well.
“Regardless of whatever level, derbies with Wednesday are always really keenly contested.
“Last season we had three tight games with them and we expect another.
“It’s a good challenge.
“The players need to learn the importance of derby games in football.”
Eaden’s side then play in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday at the CBS Arena against Eaden’s former club Coventry from 7pm.
“We played well in the first round at Carlisle but not so well in the next two against Bradford and Lincoln.
“They were all category three teams who sat back and defended against us but I expect Cov to be different.
“The Youth Cup brings something different.
“You play in bigger stadiums in front of bigger crowds. Some players raise their game and some don’t.
“I don’t think we’ve been past the third round for a few years so hopefully we can go a long way and play some big category one clubs.”
Some of Eaden’s players are starting to be rewarded with professional contracts.
Fabio Jalo and Bland have penned new deals while others are expected to follow.
“We want to see lads come through and progress into the first team.
“There is just something extra in a player if he has worked his way through the youth teams at a club.
“It’s a big part of my job to get pro contracts for the players.
“I hope they can make an impact in the first team.
“You don’t want them to have a year as a pro then move on, but it’s up to them now to take their chance.”
Eaden was part of a group of youngsters who broke into the first team in the early 1990s.
“It’s different now because clubs recruit from all over.
“Our group was a freak really.
“To have six lads from the academy in the first team squad.
“But hopefully we can get a few of these lads in the first team in the future. It makes it a lot cheaper because you don’t pay transfer fees and the wages are generally lower.”