Barnsley: Reds can’t wait for Championship challenge, but first up it’s Everton

Barnsley's Marc Roberts with manager Paul Heckingbottom
Barnsley's Marc Roberts with manager Paul Heckingbottom
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Barnsley are ready and raring to go for the Championship challenge ahead according to defender Marc Roberts.

The Reds have been impressive so far in pre-season, conceding just once in a run of four successive victories against lower league opposition.

Their first real test in the lead up to their return to the second tier of English football comes tomorrow when they host Premier League side Everton at Oakwell.

Former Red John Stones recently returned to training for the Merseyside club but may not be included in the match day squad.

Roberts’ centre-back partnership with Alfie Mawson was one of the key components behind Barnsley’s promotion from League One last term.

And the 25-year-old believes home form and a solid backline are two things that will be pivotal to the Reds’ success again this year.

“Home form is massive, you saw last season the stadium was packed, the atmosphere must have been intimidating for the opposition so we need to pick up a lot of points at home,” said Roberts.

“A lot of people will see us as underdogs and in many ways that will play in our favour, teams might come here and not give us the respect that we deserve and we’ll take advantage of that.

“We are an unknown quantity in that we don’t have much Championship experience but we have big potential to play at this level.

“Personally I want to test myself and improve myself as a player and Alfie Mawson is exactly the same, he wants to be better and we’re both up for the challenge.

“We want as many clean sheets as we can get.

“Not just me and Alfie but everyone who was in the squad at that time did well and Adam Davies made saves that kept us in games at times.

“You can only approach things one game at a time in this league because there are quality teams that could be our downfall but we’ll approach Ipswich the same.”

Boss Paul Heckingbottom is also looking forward to seeing his side test themselves against Everton at Oakwell.

“We have to try and come up with and execute a plan to win the game and we’re practicing keeping good habits against a really good quality side,” he said.

“The last few games they have played all the players that were left behind from the European Championships, now everyone is back so it depends on who they see fit to play, but we’re expecting a tough test.”

The Reds are reportedly interested in trying to lure Liverpool’s Ryan Kent to the club on loan.

But if they do they will have to agree to a clause that sees the winger feature in 75% of games or be punished financially, according to the Liverpool Echo.