Accrington Stanley v Barnsley: Reds striker has learned from school of hard knocks

VICTOR ADEBOYEJO may have made his Football League debut at the tender age of 16, but few can say that everything that has happened in his career has arrived on a silver platter.

Now 20, the Barnsley striker – who made his bow for Leyton Orient almost four years ago against Peterborough United – can reflect on a journey that has taken a circuitous route.

Dipping his toes in a host of non-league backwaters including Royston Town, Hemel Hempstead, Heybridge Swifts, Dulwich Hamlet and Soham Town Rangers have formed part of the story, while time in the seaside town of Margate was not about sun, sea and sand.

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Despite some knockbacks and tough times since making his debut for the O’s, Adeboyejo is still standing.

The Londoner finds himself at Barnsley where his beaming smile was a joy to behold after he netted late on after coming on as a substitute in the Reds’ 4-0 opening-day routing of Oxford United.

That ‘proud moment’ whetted the appetite of the forward, with the fervent hope being that more such episodes will arrive.

The investment of faith from the Reds, by way of a three-year deal which he signed last November is something which Adeboyejo is intent on repaying.

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A thoughtful footballer dedicated to his craft, Adeboyejo has learned plenty along the way in his career and still is.

Aiming to make his mark: Victor Adeboyejo.Aiming to make his mark: Victor Adeboyejo.
Aiming to make his mark: Victor Adeboyejo.

It also helps when good people look out for you.

Adeboyejo told The Yorkshire Post: “When I was at Leyton Orient, it was Jobi McAnuff and Jay Simpson. They were good players who have been there and done it at a higher level.

“They always encouraged me and helped me and even now, they speak to me.

“Jobi is a great guy in terms of speaking with young players and used to take me aside after training and we would do extras together. Jay would also speak to me before games and try and calm my nerves and then you would watch them in training.

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Daniel Stendel, 
Barnsley manager (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)Daniel Stendel, 
Barnsley manager (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
Daniel Stendel, Barnsley manager (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

“Obviously here, I am watching the lads like Kieffer (Moore), Mamadou (Thiam) and Dimi (Cavare) who have their qualities and I speak to them every day and I have a nice little support group to try and help me break through.”

Those days in non-league have also provided Adeboyejo with the odd lesson or two, with the proviso being that those who are mentally fragile invariably struggle to forge a Football League career.

It is something that Adeboyejo is minded to appreciate.

“You see those levels and the standard of the pitch and little stuff like that makes you aspire higher and you try and push higher,” said Adeboyejo, hoping for involvement with the Reds at Accrington Stanley today.

“Being at those levels helped me mentally to get goals, especially when I was younger and I pitted myself against bigger players that had that know-how. It has helped me.

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“In some respects, it has toughened me up as when you get hit, you have to get up immediately. It makes you keep pushing and learning as much as you can.”

Amid an ultra-competitive environment where a largely young squad are pushing each other internally, Adeboyejo has enjoyed his rewarding moments already this season – but it has not all been plain sailing.

Goals arrived in his first two league appearances from the bench this season against Oxford and Bradford City, although they have dried up since with just one arriving – in the Checkatrade Trophy win at Oldham.

Time out through injury proved untimely, but the forward is quick to acknowledge that finding an optimum level of consistency will prove the trick for him in 2018-19.

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It is something that he is plainly aware of, while being under no illusions that head coach Daniel Stendel possesses exacting standards and will not tolerate lapses in consistency, form and intensity.

Why should the German given the options at his disposal? If some do not grasp their opportunities, others are knocking on the door to take their place.

“It is about taking your chance when it comes and taking hold of it,” he observed.

“The season started well with scoring and getting a bit of game-time. I have had little niggles and stuff to set me back a little bit, but it is good to be back playing and among the boys. I want to get back to where I was and hopefully scoring.

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“I feel good, fresh and raring to go. The start has given me the confidence that I reach the heights I believe I can.

“It still takes a bit of pinching at times as it is what you dream of when you are young. It is about pushing forward and keep trying to get games and goals.

“You have to learn about being consistent. The manager has got his philosophy in the way he wants to play and the backbone of it is working hard and pressing and consistency is what will keep you in the team and in and around it.

“That is something what I need to improve. The bare minimum is working hard and, hopefully, the goals will come.

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“A lot of young players might come in and have a ‘worldie’ and then just fade a bit. We have to get our head around being consistent. Getting nines is good, but in the next game, you have to get a seven and be consistent. You must learn quickly.”

Team-wise, Barnsley have wised up to League One, but that is not to say that they have necessarily cracked it yet.

The Reds may be in a good place, but key tests are imminent, starting at Accrington today.

Support will not be lacking, with half of today’s crowd being from Barnsley. With that comes expectation.

“These are the fixtures where we need to stamp our authority and really push forward and try and get a result,” acknowledged Adeboyejo.

Few of a Reds persuasion would disagree with that.