How US Navy SEAL helped rejuvenate Barnsley defender Mads Anderson

INSPIRATION comes in all shapes and sizes.

For Barnsley’s rejuvenated defender Mads Andersen it arrived from a retired United States Navy SEAL and ex-US Air Force member who served in the Iraq War.

It was during the first lockdown back in his native Denmark that Andersen viewed YouTube footage of American self-help guru David Goggins and it has helped transform his mindset and his career in the process.

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He came back to Yorkshire as a different player and person.

Barnsley defender Mads Andersen.

Since football resumed last June, there have been few better defenders in the Championship.

The statistics bear this out. This season, the giant centre-half – a league ever-present – has made the most clearances and interceptions of any player in the division and only former Reds team-mate Kieffer Moore has won more headers.

Small wonder that his performances are starting to resonate on the radar of rival clubs.

If things go well in Saturday’s play-off semi-final second leg at Swansea City – and potentially in a Wembley showpiece in eight days’ time – Andersen might even be swapping the second tier for the top tier before too long without having to leave Oakwell.

Barnsley fans make a welcome return to Oakwell. Picture: PA

Whatever transpires, Goggins – an ultra-distance cyclist, public speaker and marathon runner among other things – will continue to be a guiding light.

On taking inspiration from his mentor last spring, when he was back in his homeland, Andersen said: “At that time, I was watching David Goggins and it gave me a real mentality. I was reading his book called Cannot Hurt Me. It was about his life and what he has been through and done.

“He was in the Navy SEALs and I was searching for something that could help me and it helped me to learn and grow.

“All these things I was listening to and reading were there to keep me sharp as well, so that when I came back here after the lockdown, I literally did push-ups because of David.

“In my head, if I felt like I had a weak moment or something, I would just do some push-ups to get back.

“It would be stupid to stop something that would work for me, personally.”

Covid restrictions mean that Andersen’s friends and family in Denmark – he is from the Copenhagen suburb of Albertslund – have yet to see him in action live and appreciate his on-pitch renaissance from close quarters.

One important figure in his life is close at hand these days, with his girlfriend moving from Denmark to be with him last summer.

It is perhaps proof that a happy and contented player away from the pitch is often a successful one.

Prior to that – certainly before football was suspended just over 14 months ago – it was different.

On his own away from his homeland for the first time, Andersen’s maiden campaign in England was unforgiving. He made a number of mistakes in games and there was little solace.

How times have changed, with the rebuilding process beginning when he went back home across the North Sea when football was shut down last Spring.

Andersen added: “I had some family and friends and close bonds with people I could talk to at home about all these things. When you are growing as a human being and in the present, it is a difficult time. It is very difficult to see what you can learn from it.

“But when you go back home, you can kind of reflect and look back at it and learn something from it and that is what I did.

“Now you go home and your girlfriend is there and it is some comfort. When I came here for the first time, I was 21 years old and it was in another country. You live alone and don’t know anything or know anybody.

“It was difficult, especially when the results are not going how you want them to be. When you are losing all the time and you don’t know anybody. You are just hanging in there..”

Barnsley have more than done that this season in a remarkable turnaround in fortunes. Regardless of what happens in tomorrow’s second leg in Wales, their season can be seen as a success.

The reaction of Reds fans who watched their side in the flesh for the first time since March, 2020 said as much on Monday evening.

The hosts may have narrowly lost 1-0, but you would never have known it judging by the stirring ovation of the 4,500 crowd present at the final whistle.

It was something that Andersen will never forget, more especially after the harder times.

He continued: “It was great to be back with the fans and it was amazing and we played a good game in the second half and we can bring that into Saturday. We’ll do everything we can to score.

“I told Michal (Helik) after the game that I cannot forget how it was. When I went out there, it was unbelievable and amazing. You got goosebumps.”

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