JOHN McAtee watched a League One play-off final from the stands as a fringe player for Shrewsbury Town, who would release him the next year, and is hopeful of returning there as a player with Barnsley this month.

The 24-year-old striker, who is on loan from Premier League Luton Town for the season, has netted 15 goals in all competitions this season in 43 appearances. He was a teenager who had spent the season on loan to non-league clubs Ashton United and Telford when he watched the Shrews lose to Rotherham United for a place in the Championship.

McAtee told the Chronicle: “I went to that game. It was my first time at Wembley. I remember thinking hopefully one day I can play here. We’ve got a great opportunity of getting there now.”

McAtee – whose great uncle Alan Ball won the 1966 World Cup at Wembley – played for Grimsby Town in the National League play-offs two years ago, scoring in the 5-4 extra-time win over Wrexham in the semi-final and again at the London Stadium as they beat Solihull Moors in the final.

“I only have good memories in the play-offs. I think we’ve got three last-minute winners in them. I rode my luck and hopefully that luck can stick with me this time as well.”

Reds boss Neill Collins was sacked last week and, after a deal to bring in Austrian Dominik Thalhammer apparently fell through due a work permit issue, Martin Devaney will be interim boss going into the play-offs.

“We’ve blocked it out. We’re all focused on the next two games.

“What happens after the season is up to the club. For us it’s just keeping focused and making sure everyone does everything right. Davvers has been great. He’s kept everyone together and focused on the task ahead.”

He added: “I was sad to see the gaffer go when he did but it’s football and you have to crack on.”

McAtee turned down the chance to leave in January and join a Championship club but his future beyond the summer is uncertain.

“I have had a good season personally. Whatever comes next season will come but all I have on my mind are the next two games. If you ask anyone, they want play as high as they can. If I get the opportunity to play in the Championship, with Barnsley or anyone else, it’s a goal of mine.”

McAtee scored against tonight’s visitors Bolton Wanderers in the league in March, before the Trotters came back to draw 2-2. The Reds have had success against Bolton with their pressing in both league games but lost leads.

“If you look at the games we’ve played this season, we normally end up with a better performance against the teams who try to play against us. We are front-footed and try to press. I don’t want to give too much away but we are going to try to get after them and be positive. That’s been the message.”

Bolton are favourites after Barnsley finished the season on poor form.

“Regardless of recent results, we have just made it into the play-offs. Anything can happen over two legs. I know it was a few leagues lower, but Grimsby just snuck in and ended up going up.

“We know we’re a good team. I believe in the lads, we’re tight-knit and together. We’re really focused and excited.”