Barnsley striker Conor Wilkinson has been warned not to ‘waste’ his talent by Oakwell boss Lee Johnson.
The 20-year-old is on a six-month loan in South Yorkshire from Bolton Wanderers but has netted just once when scoring against Chesterfield on debut.
The Republic of Ireland Under-21 – who returned unscathed this week from international duty along with Dan Crowley and Simeon Jackson – was a big-money signing for Bolton in 2013 when he joined from Millwall.
But he has struggled to hold down a starting place at Barnsley and a frustrated Johnson – who worked with the striker on loan at former club Oldham last season – has warned Wilkinson he must improve.
“He’s player of potential, who has got to fulfil his potential,” said Johnson.
“He has to make sure that he does everything right.
“The thing I have with Conor is can you trust him to put in a consistency of performance?
“When he’s excellent, he is excellent and really quality. At times you can see why he plays for Ireland – one of their top players.
“You can see why he’s been bought for a lot of money by Bolton.
“But then other times he doesn’t quite train at the tempo he needs to.
“That’s the bit that frustrates me, because you don’t want to see a young player like that wasting their talent.
“You have got to earn it. Nobody owes you a living and you have to earn your place in the team.”
And Johnson has thrown down the gauntlet to Wilkinson to prove he deserves a place in the Tykes’ attack, ahead of tomorrow’s League One trip to Southend United.
“We have now got four decent strikers competing with Conor, plus Dan Crowley that can play up front, Harry White has done well, which is seven,” he said. “If we stay the same shape, that’s seven strikers fighting for two spots.
“It now gives us the opportunity, having five or six games in close proximity to really see who can do what.
“We have Simeon Jackson chomping at the bit, very good in training every day, (Michael) Smith has been good, kept his head down, and Sam Winnall has scored goals – up and down in form, but goal-scoring wise he’s always a threat.”