Callum Styles and Barnsley will ‘show no fear’ this season

AT the tipping point of Barnsley’s season in July, the name of Callum Styles got a fair amount of traction on social media.

Barnsley's Callum Styles celebrates scoring against Brentford.

The gushing comments were not the exclusive preserve of Reds followers either.

The young midfielder stood out from the crowd not just with his mop of curly hair, but his ability to resemble something akin to a street footballer who was here, there and everywhere, displaying boundless energy, a big heart and a fair bit of quality along the way.

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Speak to the modest Lancastrian and he was simply enjoying the ride after being propelled into Barnsley’s ‘Great Escape’ mission at the telling hour with his contributions in those definitive final two matches against Nottingham Forest and Brentford unlikely to be forgotten in a hurry.

Barnsley's Clarke Oduor. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Perhaps better than anyone, Styles encapsulated the enjoyment and effervescence of Barnsley’s kindergarten crew at a time of major on-pitch strife. Smiling in the face of adversity.

After arguably providing champions-elect Leeds with one of their most testing occasions of the season, certainly at Elland Road, Styles and his cohorts dusted themselves down after a hugely unfortunate loss to out-think, out-enthuse and out-run Forest and then Brentford.

It culminated in those delicious scenes at Griffin Park, which no-one of a Reds persuasion will forget.

Head coach Gerhard Struber continually pledged his young braves to be fearless and that will be the message again in 2020-21.

That said, rivals will wise up and there will be no ‘little old Barnsley’ perception among some of the Championship establishment in the new season.

For Styles, 20 and Barnsley, it is now about ‘pushing on’, dealing with more expectation and continuing their heartening story under Struber while remaining grounded and earnest.

Styles, whose progress was rewarded at the start of this week by way of a new contract committing his future at Oakwell until at least June 2023, told The Yorkshire Post: “That is what we are told to do, show no fear.

“We have had to gain respect because we are a young side anyway. The position we were in, everyone wrote us off. For us to be so young and inexperienced in the league and survive and battle just shows what a group and hopefully this season, we can push on and show what we are capable of through a whole season.

“We were told not to get too caught up in the occasion and to take the game to the opponents and that is what we did.

“It was a good end to the season with the club surviving and it has given the whole group a boost going into this season and for us to hopefully not be where we were.

“That is what it is about and we are aiming to carry on like we did at the end of last season, continue the momentum and push on.”

Barnsley’s renaissance and the sight of a host of fresh-faced talents coming of age reflected well not just on those wearing first-team jerseys, but also Struber, whose feats in rescuing the Reds from a hopeless looking situation in late autumn stood tall.

Pound for pound, it was one of the impressive coaching achievements of the Championship season with the Austrian’s intelligence on the training ground matched by his ability to inspire a genuine togetherness among a group of footballers who quickly bought into ways and methods.

His constant reference to ‘my boys’ before and after games almost suggested a paternal-type care for his players. Here was someone who resembled a bit of a ‘father figure.’

Styles added: “You could say that, yes.

“He is a good coach and he really helped us and makes us know what we have to do and what our roles are specifically. We are a young side and he is always helping us on the training pitch.”

Just as Styles enjoyed a rise to prominence in high summer, the ultimate personal glory belonged to Clarke Oduor, whose contribution at Griffin Park will go down in Reds folklore.

His last-gasp goal to effectively secure safety was re-run on Twitter to the soundtrack of the Stone Roses classic ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ – and expect a few choruses to ring out among Reds followers when they are allowed back into stadiums, albeit with the name of Oduor replacing the last word.

For the former Leeds defender, 21, it helped to transform a season which had hitherto been up and down.

Odour said: “Yes, I probably would say it was frustrating (overall personally). I had a good run of games and then it stopped. That goal really did help and was the highlight for me of the season.

“It was great to have my moment and grab the winning goal.

“The song is played a lot around at my house now and my mum always plays it and my little brother. So I have been singing it a lot!”

Reds duo Patrick Schmidt and Aapo Halme have been called up to represent Austria and Finland at Under-21 level in the international break.

The pair will miss the club’s Carabao Cup game with Nottingham Forest next weekend.

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James Mitchinson