Barnsley can be a surprise package in Championship, says captain-in-waiting Cameron McGeehan

THIS time around, it is different for Cameron McGeehan.

The Barnsley midfielder’s first experience of Championship football in 2017-18 did not quite pass him by, but mitigating circumstances ensured it was an unsatisfactory one.

The leap of faith that the Oakwell club showed him in handing him a three-year deal in the summer of 2017, while he was still recuperating from a broken leg at Luton, arrived with a caveat – with his first season at the club destined to be a catch-up one.

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It culminated in him being sent out to Scunthorpe on loan to boost his game-time levels in the second half of 2017-18, but within the corridors of power at the club, there was always the belief that McGeehan would come good.

Barnsley's Cameron McGeehan: Confident ahead of new campaign.

That was adeptly displayed, albeit in less glorified League One surroundings last term.

Now McGeehan, fresh from agreeing fresh terms as a reward for playing a leading part in the club’s renaissance campaign last season, is finally ready to make a full Championship impact.

He said: “I feel like I am exactly in the right place. I have had the experience of last season with a good full season back playing and I have got much more to come in my game and I am going to try and showcase that.

“It is obviously a tough league with big teams. But I am ready to show people what I am about.

“In my first season, it was a bit stagnated and I was still halfway through my rehabilitation. Being a month behind everyone, it is hard to get integrated with the team and I was coming in with the physio all the time. But these things make you become stronger in the long run.

“I know what it is about and what I need to do to be ready.”

Speak to many soothsayers and it is destined to be a season of stress and privations for Barnsley – moreso given the loss of key men in Adam Davies, Liam Lindsay and Ethan Pinnock, who have departed for pastures new.

But for those wise to Championship affairs, the only thing that can be safely assumed at this level is its glorious unpredictability, with surprise packages also destined to come to the fore.

In that regard, McGeehan spies hope as he and his Barnsley team-mates aim to continue to harness the significant momentum they generated last term.

McGeehan opined: “The likes of Norwich and Sheffield United were not teams touted at being the ones who would get promoted automatically (last season).

“Norwich, definitely, as it looked as though some people thought they had got random players in and they were a young team – with a German manager as well. You do look at these things and think: ‘well, why not?’

“We might not go and win the league, but why cannot we push on and exceed expectations?

“The truth is we do not really know how we are going to do and I guess we can catch teams by surprise in how we play and press. I think we have got a really good manager, who can surprise teams with how we play.

“Togetherness is also massive and goes a long way for sure. We had a lot of team meals last year which the club helped to fund as well. It was good to just get away as a team and away from the training ground and mix it up.

“You understand your team-mates a bit better and then you fight for each other a bit harder on the pitch. That is important.”

As someone who speaks with maturity and quiet authority, it is easy to see why McGeehan is a natural candidate for the Reds’ captaincy following Davies’s exit.

Handed the armband for this week’s opening friendly at Stalybridge, the responsibility of being one of senior players in the Reds’ ranks clearly sits well with him.

“We are a young team and it is easy to get on well with each other and it is important we get the lads in and integrated straightaway,” he added.

“I enjoy that and the likes of me, Al (Alex Mowatt) and Cauley (Woodrow) are a young 24, but we have got a lot of games and experiences which helps.

“It is not experience in age, but in the game. I am still young, but it is about helping even younger players if you can – and you have seen people like Browny (Jacob Brown) kicking on and that is what can happen when you have young players who are hungry.”