'Infectious' and an 'extrovert': What Barnsley FC head coach Michael Duff had to say about Luke Thomas's first-team return ahead of League One trip to Cheltenham Town

BARNSLEY head coach Michael Duff is confident that the infectious character and footballing qualities of Luke Thomas will add another string to the Reds' bow - with the midfielder making a welcome return to the squad for Saturday's League One trip to Cheltenham Town after a lengthy injury absence.

Thomas has been sidelined since breaking his leg in a freak incident in training in early October, but has proved his fitness in training and several under-21 games and has been rewarded ahead of the appointment in the West Country - he hails from Gloucestershire.

The game also sees Duff make his first return to Whaddon Road after leaving Cheltenham last summer.

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On Thomas, Duff said: "I will pull him this morning and say we are going to bring him along and bring him back into the fold. He's had two or three under-21 games.

Barnsley's Luke Thomas. Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire.Barnsley's Luke Thomas. Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire.
Barnsley's Luke Thomas. Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire.

"Boban (Slobodan Tedic) would have played (for the under-21s) on Monday, but needs must with Max's (Max Watters) suspension. It just goes to show you don't always need that (21s) game, I thought Boban came in and did really well on Tuesday for the 25 minutes he had on the pitch.

"Luke is an infectious character and one of those who can't be on his own. He bounces off people and is an extrovert and gets his energy from other people and in doing that, he energises other people in the group.

"He is always great to have around and always smiling and joking. He is a really positive influence and it's very similar to the way he plays.

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"He is infectious and is a ball-dribbler with a sneaky press. Sometimes, the opposition think he is not going to get there and then he makes that ground up really quick.

"He is different to what we have got and personality wise, he is brilliant."

Midfielder Josh Benson, sidelined since mid-January with a hamstring issue, is closing in on a return, while defender Robbie Cundy, out of action since suffering a little tear in his knee in the FA Cup loss at Derby on January 8, is also making positive strides in his return to the fray.

Matty Wolfe and Conor McCarthy are longer-term issues, while Brad Collins is currently out with a muscle injury.

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Duff added: "We have a group that are quite tight knit and they are similar sort of ages with similar interests and that can help.

"We have the bodies with people like Luke and Tedic coming back. Max Watters will be disappointed, but will be back in two games and means from a squad point of view, it's still positive."