I cannot thank Barnsley enough, says loan midfielder Matty James
The midfielder was the forgotten man in Leicester City’s astounding title triumph of 2015-16, a season which he will remember as a write-off. He was decimated by a serious cruciate knee injury, which saw him undergo three operations.
The frustrations of the 24-year-old were further compounded this season after metaphorically banging his head against a brick wall waiting for a first-team run with the Foxes that never came following his return to fitness.
During his time in charge at Oldham, former Barnsley head coach Lee Johnson spoke about providing a “home for the unloved” after giving several players – on the periphery at other clubs or spurned by them – a craved-for chance.
In some respects, his successor Paul Heckingbottom has provided the same to James and he is determined to ring every last drop out of the opportunity after linking up with the Reds on loan in January.
For someone who has gone through so much, the fact that James has remained refreshingly positive and mentally strong is a credit to him and those who helped him through the dark days.
They include some good people at Leicester, as he is quick to point out, and there will be plenty of fans at the club who will be willing him on, alongside Reds’ supporters.
James, who will always recall those wretched memories of May 2015 when he suffered his shattering injury with Leicester – and the tears that flowed with it – said: “There were times when I was really down and family members would be trying to pull me back up. I wasn’t playing football and wasn’t doing what I love to do. It was really difficult, but the support I received from the club was second to none.
“I would probably say it has made me more mature and I listen to my body a bit more now.
“Just playing football again is such an enjoyment. I look forward to every training session and game now. Hopefully that is showing in the performances I have been putting in.
“I am determined to get back to where I want to be.”
Adamant he has made the right decision to choose Barnsley as the place to get him back on the footballing map, the Lancastrian added: “Definitely, this is the perfect club, 100 per cent.
“There were one or two other clubs I was speaking to, but as soon as I spoke to the gaffer, I knew the spirit he has created in this club.
“When I spoke to him, the injuries weren’t really mentioned and that is what I loved. It was all about the player I was two years ago and what he could do to try and help me get back to the level I was at.
“From that point of view, I cannot thank this club enough.”
On his longer-time future, James is not predicting too much, which is perhaps sensible given his own individual circumstances.
His primary desire is to make it to the summer injury-free with a healthy run of regular games under his belt before taking stock when pre-season commences next term, at Leicester, in all likelihood.
James, contracted for another full season at Leicester after 2016-17, said: “Barnsley showed such a belief in me that I don’t think you can burn any bridges.
“I can only thank this football club for the belief that they showed in me. It was really touching.”