As well as securing a welcome three points on home soil, Zeki Fryers’s first goal for Barnsley on Saturday will have gone a long way to helping the left-back establish himself in the Reds’ first team.
Because at 25, and with a list of previous clubs including Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Standard Liege, if there is one thing Fryers desperately craves, it is stability.
For someone with such a gilded list of former employers, it may come as a surprise to learn Saturday’s 2-0 win over Birmingham City in the red of Barnsley was only the 40th start of his career.
Indeed, even his move from Crystal Palace to Oakwell in the summer did not yield the surge of first-team football he expected, as he was made to wait until mid-October before breaking into Paul Heckingbottom’s starting line-up with any regularity.
But, having started in four of the last five games, he at last appears to have got what he craved.
“I feel a lot happier now I’m in and around the squad,” said the former Manchester United academy prospect.
He’s direct, honest and fearless. He’ll play his own game, in his own way. He’ll do what he thinks is right, rather than being influenced.Zeki Fryers on Paul Heckingbottom
“I feel like I’m getting stronger with each game I’ve played.
“It was a big move for me coming here. Now I want to put a string of 10, 15 games together and see where I go from there.”
Despite the paucity of games played, Fryers is actually one of the more experienced members of the squad.
Last week at Burton, Heckingbottom fielded a team with an average age of just under 22.
“When I’ve been in teams before there’s been the experienced heads, and as a young lad you can feed off that,” said Fryers. “Now I’ve come to Barnsley and I find myself as the older head, but we’re still all young. It’s good that we’re all youthful and energetic together.
“You do need experience in your team, but you don’t have to be old to be experienced.”
Fryers also reserved special praise for Heckingbottom, who after a haul of seven points from three games last week, has steered his side into the international break in 16th place in the Championship
“He’s direct, honest and fearless. He’ll play his own game, in his own way,” said Fryers.
“He’ll do what he thinks is right, rather than being influenced. As a player that keeps you on your toes. Because he’s so fearless, you can’t afford to switch off, he’s not afraid to change systems or change personnel.”