Barnsley v Bristol City - From Iceland to Oakwell with Tykes signing Callum Brittain

NEW Barnsley arrival Callum Brittain will always remember that summer of 2016. A time when he came of age.

While his team-mates enjoyed breaks in sunnier climes, Brittain went for a working holiday in Iceland of all places.

Instead of sun, sea and sangria, it was volcanoes, geysers, fending for himself and an introduction to ‘men’s football’ which he will forever be grateful for.

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Then a teenager awaiting his big chance at MK Dons, Brittain joined Reykjavik outfit Throttur FC for a short loan spell.

Action man: Milton Keynes Dons' Callum Brittain challenges Coventry's Ryan Giles before his move to Barnsley. Picture: PAAction man: Milton Keynes Dons' Callum Brittain challenges Coventry's Ryan Giles before his move to Barnsley. Picture: PA
Action man: Milton Keynes Dons' Callum Brittain challenges Coventry's Ryan Giles before his move to Barnsley. Picture: PA

It toughened him up on and off the pitch.

Brought up in rural Bedfordshire and now resident in South Yorkshire, Brittain has stepped out of his comfort zone again.

Fortified by his experiences in Iceland and desire to sample something new, it is something he is undaunted by.

Brittain told The Yorkshire Post: “One hundred per cent. Other than a couple of months on a loan spell, this is the first time I have really moved away from home. It excites me and I am really intrigued by the challenge and can hopefully kick on.

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“I felt like Barnsley was the best place for me to take my next step. I wanted to come here and test myself.”

On those unique experiences in the Icelandic capital, he continued: “I went from May onwards and it was for three months.

“That was a strange one. I think I was 18 at the time and the gaffer came up to me and said: ‘Do you want to play men’s football in Iceland?’ I was not playing anything at all and just sitting in the stands watching.

“I thought: ‘Why not, I will go and play men’s football over the summer.’ So I did not have a break and when I came back I was flying. It was probably the making of me and I really enjoyed it out there.

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“It is definitely something I would not pass (up) if I was a young lad and asked to go out there.

“It was very physically demanding and very long ball. I was 18 and a lot smaller than I am now. But I really enjoyed it and it was a good test for me.

“I was in Reykjavik and it was a different challenge in terms of playing football. It was also a challenge off the pitch in terms of living on my own for the first time and fending for myself, doing my shopping and cooking for myself. It was some experience, but I really enjoyed.

“The food was very fishy! But no, it was all right. Once I got to grips with the oven and all the cooking skills I had, I was all right.”

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This summer was also a bit of a strange one for the 22-year-old, who had a brief spell as a free agent ahead of re-signing for MK Dons, a club who he made 115 appearances for over the course of three years.

The full-back had plenty of suitors during his time at MK. But after re-committing to the club, it looked like his future would be in Buckinghamshire. Then, Barnsley came calling.

Like any diligent defender, Brittain did his homework.

He checked out his prospective new club and quickly realised that their energetic high-press playing style meant it was a natural fit, alongside their status as a Championship club – the next rung on the ladder for the Bedford-born player.

Some warm words from MK team-mate and ex-Reds player George Williams further crystallised his decision.

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Brittain, who has signed a three-year deal with the option of another year, added: “There was a bit of interest (over the years).

“But for me, it was picking the right place for my style. And nothing really intrigued me as much as when Barnsley came around. The style of play really suits me and it is a young group and there are a lot of opportunities for me to play at a high level.

“You don’t really want to go to a place that you don’t suit and I felt like Barnsley play very similar to MK Dons and hopefully I can hit the ground running.”

Brittain’s observations of Barnsley from afar at the end of last season provided a further allure in his decision to head north.

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Their remarkable escape from relegation in high summer proved a beguiling tale and was one which caught the imagination of many football lovers with a liking for the underdog away from Barnsley.

Brittain certainly counts himself among that number, with the Reds’ scarcely believable stoppage-time finale in the final league game at Brentford’s Griffin Park home on July 22 providing one of the stand-out moments of the EFL campaign throughout 2019-20.

“I did see the last couple of games,” he said.

“I remember watching the highlights against Brentford and it looked class and a great atmosphere among the boys.”

Brittain’s buccaneering attacking style down the right flank which saw him earn plaudits at MK will help fill the void vacated by Kilian Ludewig with he, like his new team-mates, now awaiting to see who the club’s new permanent head coach will be following the exit of Gerhard Struber to New York Red Bulls.

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It is likely to be another continental coach in the mould of Struber with the same ‘gegenpress’ ethos which has borne the imprint of Barnsley at their best in recent years.

That naturally suits Brittain, eyeing a debut in this afternoon’s home encounter with Bristol City, when caretaker head coach Adam Murray will take charge of the hosts on an interim basis for the second time in 12 months.

On his playing style, Brittain said: “I would say I am a very forward thinker and like to play forward and attack the box, but also help the team defensively. I am very a versatile player.

“I am really excited. There are a lot of big teams and I really looking forward to it.

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“I could not believe how young the squad actually is. It is great and it has helped me settle in really well. It is good everyone is around my age.”

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Thank you

James Mitchinson

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