Reading v Barnsley: Liverpool loanee Ryan Kent aims to impress and stay in picture at Anfield

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BARNSLEY’S own take on the ‘Liverpool Way’ is serving Ryan Kent rather well.

Wearing those same red jerseys and displaying a similar adherence to the fast-paced attacking football which Anfield audiences have traditionally been weaned upon; it is small wonder that Oakwell feels like a home from home for the Liverpool loanee.

Ryan Kent celebrates scoring against Leeds.  Picture Tony Johnson.

Ryan Kent celebrates scoring against Leeds. Picture Tony Johnson.

Those in the know across the Pennines are keeping abreast of developments regarding the fleet-footed winger, on a season-long loan at Barnsley, with an eye on his future development.

Naturally, Oldham-born Kent is hoping that proves to be the precursor to some extended first-team involvement at Anfield somewhere down the line, with the promotion of the likes of talented teenager Trent Alexander-Arnold probably something that has not escaped his attention either, with Jurgen Klopp clearly having no problem with promoting youth and sticking with them if he feels that they are good enough.

That is for another day but Kent’s form is being noted, with the feedback being positive.

When Barnsley have exhibited their best this season in attacking teams at pace and with ferocious intensity, Kent has claimed a piece of the action.

Paul Heckingbottom

Paul Heckingbottom

A case in point came on January 21, when he produced a bewitching performance in the televised victory over Leeds United.

More of the same would certainly be well received not only in one part of South Yorkshire, but on Merseyside, too.

Kent said: “They (Liverpool) are really pleased with my progress so far and I keep in touch with them on a weekly basis and they are monitoring my performances.

“They will either have someone come and watch me or they will go over my clips and tell me where improvements need to be or what I am doing good so far.

“We are like them as we are quite an explosive team with quick players going forward and that is what we are relying on and where we have got most of our goals – counter-attacking teams to catch them by surprise.”

Admitting that in an ideal world, his career graph will see him handed a chance to impress at Anfield, he added: “Ideally, that would be the plan. Whether that is in Jurgen Klopp’s mind, I don’t know yet.

“But as long as I keep playing the way I do and putting the performances in, we will see what happens.”

The old ‘Boot Room’ mentality of ensuring that players keep humble, grounded and focused on the next journey as opposed to basking in glory of triumphs is also alive and well in the ethos of Barnsley leader Paul Heckingbottom – and Kent has reason to be grateful for that, too.

By his own admission – with such candour always welcome in young footballers – Kent acknowledges that he was in danger of slipping into a bit of a comfort zone midway through the campaign following some pronounced early-season highs.

Heckingbottom, who has made great play of his young Barnsley side staying ‘hungry’, spotted the signs and the messages have been taken on board, to the benefit of Kent and the Reds.

Kent added: “Maybe in the middle of the season, performances were not exactly where I wanted them to be. Something needed to change and has in recent weeks.

“It is important to not get relaxed. Playing in the Championship, I might have got a bit complacent where I entered a comfort zone and I was just happy to be involved. Where I want to be is keep pushing on and I want to get to the top levels of the game.

“He (Heckingbottom) has had a big impact on my performances and the way I am around the training ground. He is a good man and very understandable and reasonable and honest with everybody. It is important to have someone in the staff-room like that.

“He has young players who enjoy playing football and turning up to training and working their hardest as they know their careers are in front of them and everyone is hungry for it.”

Barnsley may be in a position of clear comfort in the Championship table heading into today’s game at Reading but resting on their collective laurels is simply not in the equation under a high achiever in Heckingbottom.

Personal goals remain still to be attained along with team ones and it is unlikely to be lost upon the Reds head coach that Barnsley can significantly raise the bar by posting their best finish to a season since 2000.

For his part, Kent also shows some predilections for being a ‘stats man’ with the 20-year-old mindful of his own goals and assists tally – with more set-piece opportunities now falling his way following the departure of Conor Hourihane.

Kent, the first to acknowledge that his goals input of two so far in 2016-17 needs to improve, said: “Earlier on in the season, my performance statistics weren’t a good representation regarding goals and assists.

“Now in the past few weeks, I have added that to my game and people are starting to see what I am capable of doing.

“The Leeds goal meant a lot to me. To score a goal like that was a big moment in my career. I hope I can keep scoring now and add more numbers and I followed it up with an assist at Rotherham the week after

“For me, it is important as a forward player. That is what people are looking at and what the managers want from the players – numbers on the sheet. At the end of the day, that is what you get picked for.”