Swansea City v Barnsley: Matty Wolfe is eager to grasp his chance at Oakwell

With Cauley Woodrow recovered from a knee injury, Barnsley finally have their captain back for the trip to Swansea City but leadership does not only have to come from the older members of the squad and in Matty Wolfe, coach Poya Asbaghi sees a winner who even at 21 is setting an example.

With just six matches to make up an eight-point gap to safety, mentality is crucial and Asbaghi calls midfielder Wolfe “unafraid”.

After 10 years in an academy which produced John Stones and Harry Maguire, plus the first half of the season on loan in Denmark at Esbjerg, Wolfe seems bemused why anyone would be afraid of playing football.

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Since his full debut at home to Bournemouth in January Wolfe has quickly established himself.

Barnsley's Matty Wolfe. Picture: Tony Johnson

“There were nerves before the game because you start to think, if I do this, what are the fans going to do?” admits Wolfe, recently rewarded with a new two-year contract. “But I just focused on doing the basic stuff right. You just think I’ve waited my whole life for this opportunity and I’m not going to let it past me.”

Asbaghi, who began 2021-22 as Sweden’s Under-21 coach, said: “He’s a hard worker, tough in duels, good at transporting the ball, a player we can rely on at set pieces. He doesn’t get affected by anything. If he performs really well in front of our crowd he doesn’t go into the next training session thinking he should win the Balon d’Or and if he makes a bad performance, he doesn’t go home and cry and think he’s the worst player in the world.”

Bar a 23-minute debut in July 2020, Wolfe has never had the chance to learn from Woodrow, injured since mid-December – at least on the pitch.

“Even his energy on the training pitch is massive,” says Wolfe. “He’s been with England (youth teams) and you can tell straight away in training the talent he has.

“He’s always in the meetings and loves to have an input. I don’t mind speaking up but it’s the older ones like Carlton (Morris), Cauley, Mads (Andersen), who tend to speak more. I see myself as being a leader like they are when I’ve been here a couple of years.”

Last six games: Swansea City WWWDWL; Barnsley LDLWWLDD

Referee: A Woolmer (Northamptonshire)

Last time: Swansea 1 Barnsley 1, May 22, 2021, Championship play-off semi-final