AFTER looking a cut above in his short but eventful time at Barnsley so far, star turn Oli McBurnie can now start making a difference at international level.
This is the verdict of Reds head coach Jose Morais, left to savour another sweet goalscoring moment from the growing repertoire of the 21-year-old in the 1-1 home draw with Norwich City on Tuesday night.
The Swansea loan forward made the most of his one clear-cut opportunity just before the break against the Canaries, with his instinctive, hooked, low shot going in off a post to put the hosts ahead just before the break – his sixth goal in his last seven outings for the Reds.
It reinforced the belief of many that McBurnie is emphatically Barnsley’s best hope of Championship survival, with confidence currently oozing through the Leeds-born striker, fresh from his Championship player-of-the-month award for February and his maiden Scotland senior call-up for the forthcoming friendlies with Costa Rica and Hungary.
Morais, who insisted that he saw “very good things” from his side in midweek – despite a 71st-minute equaliser from Norwich denying the Reds a chance to move five points clear of the relegation zone – said: “I am very proud and have already told him that I cannot believe how they have called him (already) to the international team after only scoring a few goals.
“But I was obviously joking with him.
He is a good man, with maturity in his football and is very clever. I think he will be someone important in national football.Barnsley boss Jose Morais
“I am very happy for him and think he can make the difference in the national team.
“He is a good man with maturity in his football and is very clever.
“I think he will be someone important in national football.
“He is continuing to work and is already conscious about the need to keep working hard to improve his intensity and increase his capacity.
“With this in mind, he will achieve very quickly.
“If he goes back to Swansea next year he will have much more opportunities than he has got this season.
“He is in a moment of good flow in terms of energy and achieving goals in his young career.
“That represents an improvement in the quality of the team.
“The situation where he scored a goal was fantastic attacking play.”
Morais’s delight at McBurnie’s international elevation was shared by his team-mates, including someone who can vouch for his international suitability all too well in the shape of Reds midfielder Stevie Mallan.
The former St Mirren player, who has lined up with McBurnie on several occasions for the Scottish Under-21s, said: “The big man deserved it, definitely.
“I played a few times with him for the Scotland Under-21s and you could see his obvious quality there. He has come here and kicked on and is bang in form with his goals.
“I don’t think he will look out of place.”
Unfortunately a second-half equaliser from Norwich denied Mallan, McBurnie and their team-mates a win bonus on an evening of frustration with a 1-1 draw against the Canaries the sort of disappointment that the Oakwell faithful have grown accustomed to over the past 12 months.
It extended Barnsley’s sequence without a home league win to a worrying 10 matches.
But the fact that they have a relatively short turnaround before being in a position once again to try to end that increasingly damning statistic is welcomed by the players, with Millwall paying a visit to South Yorkshire this Saturday.
Mallan, who went close with a late chance after coming on as a second-half substitute against Daniel Farke’s side, said: “The boys thought it was two points dropped.
“I think we thought we were the better team for most of the game and could have actually got the win.
“But we can take a lot of positives into the game coming up with Millwall.
“At the minute the boys are hurting and feel as if we should have pulled ourselves a little bit further away from the bottom three.
“But all we can do is take that pain, remember it and do what we can to take three points on Saturday. It is a sore one.
“We are lacking home wins and Saturday is a great opportunity to go and get that.”