All Stevie Mallan wants for Christmas is to make his debut for Barnsley.
The 21-year-old arrived from Scottish side St Mirren in the summer with a reputation for being a goal-scoring midfielder.
But he has had to be patient for his chance at Oakwell, under boss Paul Heckingbottom. He was an unused substitute in last weekend’s 3-0 defeat to Derby County, and is in contention today as the Reds travel to Brentford looking to end a six-game winless run.
“As a player sat on the sidelines you always want to get on and play, and when you’re not playing the weeks can drag out,” admitted Mallan. “You just want to show what you can do, and hopefully now that I have started to get a sniff I can start getting involved.
“I want to show the manager what I can do on the pitch on a Saturday. I have learned more about myself in the past five months than I have ever done.
“I went from playing week-in, week-out to not playing, so psychologically as well, I spoke to a lot of people to keep me going and keep me grounded.
“I have just been putting the hard work in every day to get into the manager’s thoughts.”
Mallan needed no convincing to move from St Mirren for Oakwell, swapping the Scottish Championship for its English namesake.
But the midfielder has had to be patient for his chance, rather than being thrown in at the deep end.
“When I came I knew I had a lot to learn, and that’s one of the main reasons why I moved down,” said Mallan. “I thought I had done as much as I could in Scotland, as a young footballer you want to learn at the highest level and this was the place to come.
I have just been putting the hard work in every day to get into the manager’s thoughts.Barnsley’s Stevie Mallan
“Since I have come down I have learned a lot more about the game which I didn’t know before. Now it’s a just about me putting that into practice and fighting my way into the team.
“I am still young, just 21, and knew how hard it would be coming from the Scottish Championship to the English Championship.
“It’s just about me being patient and biding my time. When your chance comes you have to take it with both hands, you can’t just let it slip. There’s always been a plan in place and I always knew where I stood with the manager.
“The main difference is it’s more tactical here, in Scotland either side could win on a Saturday, they just go for it.
“In England it’s more tactical, more in-depth, and more physical. It’s where I wanted to come and test my own attributes.”