Video - Barnsley v Middlesbrough: Loan star Ugbo keen to adapt and meet challenges

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IKE UGBO did not have to look far for inspiration when he elected to leave Chelsea for a provincial Championship team in red in Barnsley in the summer.

The exploits of Ugbo’s Blues colleague Tammy Abraham, in firing 26 goals on loan for Bristol City last season, were headline-grabbing, and the highly-regarded forward is now dipping his toes in Premier League waters at Swansea City this season ahead of assessment at Stamford Bridge next summer.

Ugbo, just under a year younger than Abraham at 19, may not have ripped up the Championship in the same way so far in his time at Oakwell, but his stock remains just as high in the corridors of power in west London.

Testament to that arrived by way of the pair signing new deals in the close-season and when you crunch the numbers of their scoring feats in the age-group teams at Chelsea, they are not too dissimilar.

League and cup glory has been in plentiful supply along with international kudos and while Ugbo is, in some respects, currently playing catch-up to his Blues colleague, he has plenty to strive for during his season-long loan in south Yorkshire.

Ugbo, aiming to emulate the likes of Abraham and fellow Chelsea team-mates Kasey Palmer and Izzy Brown in making his mark in the second tier, said: “When you see the young players like Tammy, it shows you that it can be done.

Barnsley's Ike Ugbo battles for the ball against Tottenham's Harry Winks. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA

Barnsley's Ike Ugbo battles for the ball against Tottenham's Harry Winks. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA

“It is obviously difficult to get into the team at Chelsea and coming here was one of the best options. I want to show I can play first-team football.

“The manager showed me that I will be getting game time and that it will be good for me to learn my trade here.

“I have definitely enjoyed it, especially scoring my first goal and getting my first first-team appearance.”

Do not let it be said that Reds manager Paul Heckingbottom or his Oakwell predecessor and current Bristol City head coach Lee Johnson were anything other than persuasive when they made their pitch to sign Ugbo and Abraham over the last two summers.

I went to speak to a couple of other managers. But I think Paul Heckingbottom showed the most interest and he was ready to show me how I could develop as the season goes on.

Ike Ugbo

Selling a dream and convincing young players, whose representatives are entitled to be conscious of a plethora of interest from rival clubs, to buy into their unique vision is not exactly straightforward. The players can afford to be choosy.

Sometimes, honesty and clarity go a long way, with those classic Yorkshire qualities displayed by Royston-born Heckingbottom finding a willing ear in Ugbo when the young Londoner made his decision on his Championship destination amid a fair bit of interest.

On his move to Barnsley, Ugbo, hoping to follow up his goal against Sunderland at Oakwell at the end of August with another against more north-east visitors in Middlesbrough this afternoon, said: “I wouldn’t say I spoke to many people other than my family. We kept it quiet.

“I went to speak to a couple of other managers. But I think Paul Heckingbottom showed the most interest and he was ready to show me how I could develop as the season goes on.

Lewis Baker, fellow Chelsea youngster of Ike Ugbo's who is on loan at Middlesbrough, who Barnsley host today. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Lewis Baker, fellow Chelsea youngster of Ike Ugbo's who is on loan at Middlesbrough, who Barnsley host today. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“When he came to me, he showed me things I do which can suit the team. He showed interest in me and showed me how he wanted to see stuff when I am playing. I wouldn’t just be sitting on the bench and not learning.

“It is a long season and I still have time to develop and show I can be ready to become more of a starter in the team.

“Definitely from the first game with Barnsley, my game has improved a lot. Coming into it, I am getting more used to it and working hard every day. with the players here.

“There are a lot of new challenges, but I am ready to adapt. I will hopefully gain experience here playing many games.

“Hopefully, one day, Chelsea will call me back and say I am ready.”

As confidence boosts go, Ugbo has been served with the perfect one ahead of the arrival of Boro, whose squad includes another aspiring Chelsea talent in Lewis Baker, who joined the Teesside club on a season-long loan in the summer.

SERIOUS INTEREST: Barnsley manager Paul Heckingbottom impressed Chelsea youngster Ike Ugbo. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

SERIOUS INTEREST: Barnsley manager Paul Heckingbottom impressed Chelsea youngster Ike Ugbo. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Ugbo and Reds team-mate Harvey Barnes have both sampled highs with England Under-20s, with the former entitled to a bit of a grin after netting his maiden goal at that level in a 5-1 win over Italy in the province of Gorgonzola at the end of last week in a side that also included two players already boasting top-flight experience in West Ham’s Reece Oxford and West Brom’s Sam Field.

England followed up with a similarly emphatic 4-0 victory over the Czech Republic this week with Barnes finding the net.

The pair will seek to round off a rewarding international stint on their return to club business today.

Ugbo added: “Obviously it is an honour to get picked for my country and represent them away and play Italy and then the Czech Republic.

“I think we did well as a team to get those results.

“It was my first goal for the Under-20s and it is the best feeling when you score, especially for your country.

“It is good for Harvey too. When he came here, I was happy for him and we were both happy for each other. We are in the same age group.

“Obviously, when I go to England, getting picked gives me a bit of confidence as does scoring a goal.

“It gives me more of a boost to come back and keep it going here and do well for Barnsley.

“Hopefully when I get the next (Barnsley) goal, they will start to come regularly and I can keep doing well for the team.”