Barnsley star Ethan Pinnock ready to kick on again at a higher level

SOMETIMES appearances can be deceptive – much like in the case of Ethan Pinnock.

Barnsley's Ethan Pinnock: Ready for new challenge.

A placid individual away from the pitch, Barnsley’s mighty defensive oak is unyielding on it as playing his part in the club’s record haul of 21 clean sheets in a 2018-19 season to remember will testify.

His laid-back persona should also not be confused with a lack of ambition and drive either, quite the opposite in fact.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Speak to Pinnock – an omnipresent and irrepressible figure in the heart of the Reds rearguard last term – about his need to continue his education in the surroundings of the Championship and he instantly gets your drift.

Another season in the third tier in 2019-20 would have been regressive and demoralising. Pinnock’s stock is high and his time is now and he inwardly knows it.

For the Oakwell faithful, the fervent hope is that he will be in a Barnsley jersey to play his part in a young side’s further evolution in August and that any rival interest in the summer – as there is surely likely to be – is repelled.

For his part, the Londoner is happy at Oakwell, nourished by events at the end of the season when the club booked an instant return to the Championship, 12 months after vacating it.

Like several others in Barnsley red, Pinnock – who turns 26 on Thursday – plainly has unfinished business at this level.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “I am kicking on now and will be the wrong side of 25 soon and in football terms, that is getting on a bit.

“It (promotion) was really important for me – but all the young players also want to play as high as they can and to be able to make that jump to the Championship next season has been really big for all of us. We are all really excited to take the challenge on.

“Personally, I have had a really good season here and have really enjoyed my football and being around the lads.

“It is a great club and the fans have been great in getting behind us. I am just looking forward to next season and kicking on and seeing where it takes me.”

The celebrations which followed Barnsley’s recent promotion were long and justified; the elixir of footballing life to any professional.

They also offered a reminder as to why they are in the game.

Barnsley partied hard after their promotion was clinched without kicking a ball at the end of April and the Champagne-fuelled scenes with supporters after the season’s finale at Bristol Rovers’ aptly-named Memorial Stadium will be fondly recalled by those group of players in the years to come.

For Pinnock and several others, it also served as a reminder as to how far they have travelled in their particular journeys.

His own started out in the non-league backwaters of Dulwich Hamlet as a raw 16-year-old lining up against men ferociously competing for win bonuses to ‘keep feeding their families’ in his words.

He and his first club may have gone their separate ways but the respect clearly endures.

“A lot of them (at Dulwich) congratulated me,” added Pinnock.

“Even at Forest Green, I still keep in touch with a few of the boys there, even though I was only there for a year. I am just really thankful for all the support they have given me, which has helped kick me on.

“I have had a promotion in non-league and then one with Forest Green. But to get promoted automatically from League One is brilliant and it is another level.

“It was quite a few leagues down when I started at Dulwich and I was there until I was 22 or 23. I can be seen as a ‘late bloomer’ but I feel as though I have really kicked on well this season under the new gaffer.

“He has got us playing really good football with high energy and I think it has really worked.”

The sense of pride at a job well done this season was also reinforced by collective experience for Barnsley’s victorious class of 2018-19 – with those played out at Derby County on May 6, 2018.

Those bitter events saw the Reds surrender their Championship status meekly but sometimes the darkness comes before the dawn.

Seven players in the match-day squad that day were on the pitch at Bristol Rovers, along with some other squad members who were in the away section at Derby when Barnsley’s fate was painfully played out at the end of 2017-18.

Memories of that wretched Sunday afternoon served as motivation for the challenges ahead, with the circle squared for many.

Pinnock said: “It really has motivated us. Last season was disappointing and the aim was to try and get back up straightaway.

“We knew it was really difficult as a lot of teams plan that and it does not always happen. But the lads have showed the belief and determination and put the hard work in and thoroughly deserved to be where we are.”