Barnsley v Shrewsbury Town - Adam Davies taking high-risk approach to international honours

Adam Davies has paid tribute to the influence of Barnsley manager Daniel Stendel for elevating him to the ranks of international goalkeeper.

The 26-year-old former Sheffield Wednesday youth prospect earned his first cap for Wales in the friendly with Trinidad and Tobago last month.

For a man who usually plies his trade in English football’s third tier, it was a notable step up, but one the Barnsley captain handled with great composure.

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That is an inherent trait. What catapulted him to international prominence was the German coach who has taken his game to an area Davies never thought he would require.

Adam Davies: Making his name on international stage. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

For Stendel is an advocate of the in-vogue tactic of the high press, very much the innovation of the foreign coach – his countrymen Jurgen Klopp and David Wagner at its vanguard – and the goalkeeper is integral to making it work at Oakwell.

Instead of just hoofing the ball out of his hands, a goalkeeper in this system is encouraged to begin the next attack with his quick distribution.

“Previous managers would have said ‘if it’s on, do it, but take no risks’, whereas he wants us to take those risks, he wants us to dominate the ball,” says Davies of Stendel.

“He wants us to take risks further up the field and and it’s definitely helped me improve and made me believe in my ability to do that.

“It was a mindset I had to get into. It took a bit of time to build and we worked on it a lot in training, just to get comfortable with the different angles, different ways of getting out, and we’ve become pretty good at doing it.

“But we mix it up, you don’t want to become too predictable.”

If it was a change in mentality then Davies wasted no time in learning it. He kept four clean sheets to start the season as Barnsley laid the foundations of a challenge for automatic promotion that has just four games left to run.

In all, Davies has kept 19 clean sheets this season in 40 appearances for club and country, including six in succession ahead of his international debut in March in which, you guessed it, he did not concede.

Elevation to a Wales team illuminated by Gareth Bale was an exciting chapter for the Reds goalkeeper and one that might not have been possible were it not for Stendel’s guidance.

“That international cap was a great day and a proud moment for me and my family,” said Davies.

“I thank Daniel for keeping the faith in me.

“He’s been fantastic, he’s improved me as a player. As you step up to that international level, goalkeepers are expected to be really good with their feet.”

As a captain, also, he needs to be good at using his head, knowing when to speak and not to speak in the Barnsley dressing room.

Such a moment arrived 13 days ago when Barnsley went to Burton and lost, handing the initiative in the race for second place in League One to Sunderland, and giving Portsmouth and Charlton renewed hope in the automatic promotion chase.

“Defeat to Burton was a bit of a kick up the backside,” admitted Davies. “We had a sit down as players and spoke about getting back to what we do well, that high-energy, high-press team that we know that we are.

“All week it was about getting back to that and it showed on the day as we really took the game to Fleetwood.”

The game with Fleetwood last Saturday has been marred by the ugly incident in the tunnel after the game involving Stendel and Fleetwood manager Joey Barton.

But in the Reds dressing room it did not detract from the fact that they got back to winning ways.

Davies, as a veteran of Barnsley’s promotion from this league two years ago, knows all too well how important the ability to find a way to win is at this juncture of the season.

Back in 2016-17, Barnsley were bottom in December before launching an improbable run that culminated in promotion via the play-offs.

This season, qualification for the play-offs would represent a disappointment given they have jostled for position at the summit for the entire campaign.

Not that Davies is allowing such negative thoughts to enter the dressing room.

“I’ve said to the lads that whatever the outcome at the end of the season, we need that momentum, so we need to focus on our own performance,” said Davies, who hopes to have Liam Lindsay in front of him against Shrewsbury today after the reliable defender pulled out of the Fleetwood game with a knee injury. “If we get the wins we need to get automatic, then great, but if not, let’s at least try and get a bit of momentum towards the play-offs.”

Last six games: Barnsley DDWDLW; Shrewsbury LWLWDW.

Referee: S Oldham (Lancs).

Last time: Barnsley 1 Shrewsbury 2; September 5, 2015; League One.