Midfield man Luke Berry is determined to be part of manager Lee Johnson’s new-look Barnsley next season. Richard Hercock reports.
Hailing from the university city of Cambridge, Luke Berry could have been forgiven for thinking he had finally graduated to the Football League.
For the midfielder was a key part of the Cambridge United side which beat FC Halifax Town in last season’s Conference play-offs and gained promotion to League Two.
Those displays, where he picked up 23 goals in 128 non-league appearances, did enough to tempt then Barnsley manager Danny Wilson to bring Berry north last summer.
The first half of the season saw the Cambridge-born playmaker impress, but he became a victim of the managerial changes at Oakwell and his ‘graduation party’ was put on hold.
The 22-year-old has had to bide his time as new manager Lee Johnson engineered a Tykes revival which saw them go close to gatecrashing the play-offs.
But with hopes of finishing in the top six over, Berry was handed his first start under Johnson on Saturday and capped a fine afternoon with the equaliser – his first goal in the Football League – in a 1-1 draw with Peterborough United.
Now, Berry hopes to keep the shirt for the final two games of the League One campaign – starting with Saturday’s trip to Bradford City – and show Johnson he deserves to be given a starting berth next season at Oakwell.
“I was delighted. It was my first league goal,” said Berry. “It was pleasing to get it. I thought we deserved the draw; maybe even a win.
“It was a good performance from everyone, we just lacked that cutting edge.
“It’s been a long wait (for his first Barnsley goal), I had obviously wanted to get it earlier. I am pleased, although the main thing was the result. The boys have been playing well and it’s been hard to get into the team.
“I have been putting in extra work at the training ground to get fit, and it’s finally paid off.
“I would have liked for us to have pushed further up the table and for me score more goals, but, hopefully next season, I can show more of what I am about.
“I want to keep this run going now, be in the next two games, and, hopefully, next season.
“We need to try and iron out our faults this season, and become a real force in this league (next season).
“It was great to score in front of the Barnsley fans. I played at Cambridge and was no great fan of Peterborough, so it was good to get the goal.”
Manager Johnson revealed he gave Berry his chance after being impressed at close-range in training.
“I trained with the group the other day and he was probably the most impressive player from within,” said Johnson.
“You can feel the difference in the quality of the player sometimes when you play with them rather than just watching. Luckily, I am still young enough to run about and let him run rings around me.
“He did well. He’s been unlucky really, as we have a strong midfield here, probably one of the strongest in the league when they are at their best.
“He found himself out of the team through no real fault of his own but he has trained well every day.”
Berry benefitted on Saturday after Barnsley left out all of their loan players to give a raft of young Tykes a chance to show their potential for next season.
Johnson plans a huge overhaul of the squad in the summer, but stressed the door is not closed on retaining some of the loan players.