Dale Jennings admits he is still not as fit as his team-mates but is pleased to be playing regularly after a difficult start to his Barnsley career.
The 21-year-old Liverpudlian was heralded as a huge signing by then manager David Flitcroft when he joined last summer on a three-year deal from Bayern Munich and the club broke their usual policy to reveal the £250,000 transfer fee in order to show there was money being pumped into the squad.
After breaking a record for the fastest ever sending off on a Barnsley debut – when he saw red in a 4-0 loss to Wigan on the opening day – Jennings made two starts and two more substitute appearances but struggled for form and was accused of being unfit. But, after a successful loan spell in League One at MK Dons, the winger has been brought back into the team by new manager Danny Wilson and has produced some good displays in starting the last four matches.
"I am happy with my performances in the last few games but I can do better," Jennings told the Chronicle. "I am still not 100 per cent fit but I am getting there. Playing games is the most important thing for getting fit."
When asked about Jennings' apparent weight problem, Wilson said: "I don't know what he looked like before I came to the club but I can't imagine he was Billy Bunter. I don't remember Diego Maradona being slim. It doesn't matter if you can play football. There's still more to come from Dale but he's doing well."
Wilson's attitude is very different from that of Flitcroft, who suggested Jennings was not ready for the Championship and sent him to MK. Jennings said: "It was hard for me to break into the team under Flitcroft. I had some injury problems but it was frustrating because, when I was fit, I thought I should have been playing but obviously he didn't want to play me. I would start a game then I wouldn't play for a couple of weeks. The team was at the bottom of the league so I didn't understand why I wasn't playing. He never told me why but it was his decision to make.
"I went on loan to MK Dons and got my confidence and fitness back and the new manager at Barnsley has faith in me. MK Dons wanted to extend the loan until the end of the season and I would've played every game. I didn't know if I'd play at Barnsley but I came back, worked hard and I have got in the team. Danny didn't know his team and told me that if I worked hard I would be in it. I had a small injury before Charlton but that was called off then I have played every game since."
Jennings has a chance to redeem himself against Wigan when Barnsley visit the DW Stadium on Tuesday night. He said: "Hopefully I can stay on the pitch for the full 90 minutes this time but the main thing is to go there and get a result. It was disappointing to get sent off in my first game but I have put it behind me. I don't really think about it."