Exclusive: Barnsley’s Connell shows “great belief” ahead of season’s final clash as promotion chase continues

Barnsley’s youngster stays positive that the club can succeed in their goal of making the Championship through the team’s “grounded” mindset.

Neil Goulding
Neil Goulding

Last Updated: 2024-04-26

Louis Hobbs

5 minutes read

Footballer Luca Connell in English League One match in Barnsley kit

Luca Connell has backed promotion-chasers Barnsley to finish the job on the last day of the domestic season.

The Tykes are sitting pretty in fifth place and one point ahead of fellow play-off rivals Lincoln, Oxford, and Blackpool with just one game remaining.

They have not dropped out of the top six since 3 October and have been one of the division’s teams to beat.

But recently the football club have suffered an alarming dip in form which has seen them lose four of their last given league matches – and they’ve also not won in their last five.

Brimming with confidence despite poor form and leave of manager

That form saw the shock departure of manager Neill Collins on Monday, a move which rocked the club at such an important stage in the season.

However, midfielder Connell is confident the ambitious South Yorkshire side possess enough quality to secure their play-off place and win promotion to the second tier.

Last season the club suffered agony when they lost out 1-0 to Yorkshire derby rivals Sheffield Wednesday in the Play-off final at Wembley.

“I think if anybody had offered us this position we’d have snapped their hands off,” stressed Connell.

“It’s exciting to be in this position at this stage in the season.

“We’ve got a great belief in the group this season, it’s just the mentality to do well.

“Even when we concede first, which we have done a lot this season, we’ve still got the mentality to come from behind and won a good few games and picked up a lot of points from behind from that position.

“I don’t think we’ve looked too far into where we want to finish in the play-offs because there’s been no secret we’ve been going for automatic promotion this season.”

Image Credits: @BarnsleyFC (

Image Credits: @BarnsleyFC (

Pushing through despite unpleasant stereotypes

Connell, 23, added: “Anything can happen in this league, we’ll just be pushing right up until the last game because anything can happen.

“We’re a humble, hard-working, and a very grounded team. We know the challenge and we know what’s ahead of us so, even though when we’re getting a good couple of results, it’s never about getting too high.

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We’ve been on the front foot this season, getting after people and winning the ball high up the pitch.

Luca Connell

“It’s worked well for us this season, but you’ve also seen times in games we’ve been under the cosh and we’ve shown a lot of character.

“We’ve been stereotyped as a young team and people have said, ‘how will they cope with the pressure?’ but, you know, that’s quietened down during the season when we’ve proved a couple of people wrong.”

A rough start and wishing for more team contributions

Connell, who started his career with Bolton and who signed a three-year deal with Barnsley in June 2022, missed the start of the season through injury, but since returning in November he’s never looked back.

And he would love nothing more than to help guide the Tykes back up to the Championship for the first time since 2022 having spent the last two seasons in League One.

Image Credits: @BarnsleyFC (

Image Credits: @BarnsleyFC (

Victory over Northampton on Saturday in their final home game of the season would guarantee that coveted play-off place – and Connell knows all will be up for grabs if they can get down to the final four promotion hopefuls.

“The start of the season couldn’t have gone any worse for me, to be honest,” admitted Connell. “I didn’t play for two-three months, which was really hard.

“That meant my goals changed then from wanting so many goals and assists, to I just want to play every game now until the end of the season.

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I think my mentality changed completely to just being focused on helping the team rather than individual targets.

Luca Connell

“For me, it was about helping the team get points and to finish as high as we can this season.

“I’ve been happy with my performances, but I would have liked to have chipped in with more goals and assists.

“But those will all be forgotten about if you get into the play-offs and get promoted.

“I had 40-odd appearances last season, but I’ve enjoyed getting on the pitch this season as well after missing so much.

“Promotion is what every single team wants in every single league, luckily last year I was lucky to be involved in it. But this year I want to do one better.”

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Neil Goulding
Neil GouldingSenior Sports Reporter

Neil has been a journalist for longer than he'd care to remember, having written for national newspapers and respected publications for over 25 years. For the last three years he has worked freelance for BBC Sport, working on the production desk as a sub-editor and also as a writer, covering a whole range of sports.