NEILL Collins believes he has six strikers capable of scoring goals in the promotion run-in and is delighted Barnsley were able to keep star players such as Devante Cole in the January window.
The promotion-chasing Reds bought defender Josh Earl from Fleetwood Town and loaned in midfielder Conor Grant from MK Dons, both on deadline day, having signed US international centre-back Donovan Pines earlier in the window.
They loaned out Callum Styles to Sunderland, with a buy option in the summer, as well as nine other players to various clubs while Aaron Leya Iseka left permanently.
The Reds looked to bring in a striker on deadline day but, after several bids, were not able to do so.
They have 17-goal league top-scorer Devante Cole – who remained at Oakwell despite rumours of a move – and nine-goal Luton loanee John McAtee who Collins said turned down a move to the Championship in the January window.
There are also Sam Cosgrove and Max Watters who have struggled to make an impact this season mainly as substitutes and were not brought on in Saturday’s draw at Bolton Wanderers.
Teenager Fabio Jalo is expected to miss the next month at least with an injury, while fellow academy product Aiden Marsh scored for the under 21s in midweek.
Asked about the strikers, Collins told the Chronicle: “Coaches always want more, it’s just the way we’re made.
“There is always a player out there we think can make us better.
“The club worked really hard to make it happen.
“But I think we have four, five, maybe six strikers who can give us goals.
“Fabio’s injury is probably not as bad as first thought, Sam and Max have shown through their careers they can score goals, Aiden Marsh has played really well when he’s played. Between those six, I think we’ve got goals.”
He added: “I am really pleased with the guys we were able to keep.
“We have a real tight-knit squad now. Everyone is close to getting their opportunity to play. They are ready, engaged and know where we are all at.”
Styles joined Championship Sunderland on loan for the rest of the season with an option to buy in the summer. The Black Cats are understood to be paying the 23-year-old’s wages.
Styles was ill towards the end of the window and is not expected to play in the coming weeks. He is keen to play at a higher level to secure a place in Hungary’s squad for this summer’s European Championships, after playing 20 League One matches for the Reds in the first half of this season.
Collins told the Chronicle: “It was best for all parties. Me and Callum had a good relationship, I played him a lot, he’s a Hungarian international with good quality, but ultimately he was always keen to pursue that move.
“A big thing, as you could see at Bolton, is we need people who are 100 per cent committed to being here.
“That’s not to say Callum didn’t show commitment to me and the team but, when a player expresses that real desire to move on, we have to consider it.
“Callum gets an opportunity to play for Sunderland. We had the opportunity to bring Josh in who is a good long-term signing for us.”
Barnsley have not had any players this season who can play left-back in a back four but Earl can, while Grant offers an option as a number ten behind the strikers without having to play McAtee there and take him out of the front two.
“It definitely gives us more options.
“With Callum going, we left ourselves short on the left. But Josh helps with that. Conor gives us something a bit different, he can be creative and play a couple of positions.
“We needed bodies but we’ve got a couple of good options there.”
With Styles leaving and Owen Dodgson being recalled by parent club Burnley, Nicky Cadden is the only natural left wing-back at Barnsley.
Earl has been brought in partly to provide cover there but, in an interview with the Chronicle, he laughed it off and said it would take a ‘big emergency.’
Collins said: “Cads is of course the most natural there but Josh has played there in the Championship a number of times so we would consider him there.”
Barnsley loaned out young centre-backs Jack Shepherd – who had started the previous four league games – and Kacper Lopata to League One relegation-battlers Cheltenham Town and Port Vale respectively.
That leaves the Reds short in that area in the short-term with Pines and Jamie McCart still getting up to full fitness.
Collins said: “We will do what is best for us to be as successful as possible.
“There is a long-term view as well.
“There are books to be balanced as well, I am sure.
“Short-term, we maybe need Kacper and Jack but I believe, if we can get Donovan where we want him and Jamie McCart comes back fit, it will be beneficial for the players and us as a club that they are out playing.
“I watched Kacper play (for Port Vale against Saturday’s visitors Leyton Orient on Tuesday) and he did well.
“What a season Jack has had. To play the games he has for us and now go to Cheltenham to play regularly.”
Striker Oli Shaw has been loaned to Motherwell for the remainder of the season. The deal went through on deadline day but was confirmed yesterday.