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Danny hunts ‘jewels’ as Nana, Maris and Abbott sign pro contracts

By Doug O'Kane, Sports Editor Friday 30th May 2014

Three more youngsters signed up with Barnsley this week and manager Danny Wilson is hoping Barnsley get a 'nice surprise' as he 'throws them in at the deep end' in League One.


Strikers Nana Boakye-Yiadom and George Maris, who got 34 goals between them for the under 18s last season, both signed their first professional contracts on Wednesday. The previous day, midfielder Brad Abbott, who has been on a professional contract for a year, committed for a further six months.


Midfielder Darren McKnight is expected to sign a six-month deal when he returns from his native Northern Ireland for pre-season while highly-rated left-back George Smith and goalkeeper Christian Dibble are yet to decide their futures. Striker Rhys Oates signed up earlier in the month while the likes of James Bree, Danny Rose, Reuben Noble-Lazarus and Paul Digby are all tied down to long-term deals at Oakwell.


"We need to give these players a chance," said Wilson, who brought through a host of academy graduates in his first spell in charge.


"Whether that is at the beginning of the season or later on we will see, but at the same time we need these lads to have an eye on getting into the first team as quickly as possible.  As a club we don't want to be waiting for players to get to 22 or 23 years old before they get a chance.  I've always felt, not just here but other places, that throwing young lads into the deep end is not always what you want to do, but sometimes you get a nice surprise when you do that.


"So let's hope we have a few jewels in the crown in the next season or so when one or two of these lads come through into the first team. They will need to excel themselves, but that has got to be the challenge set for them."


Sheffield lad Maris joined the Reds as an under 15 from Stocksbridge Park Steels and netted 20 times as a second year scholar, including two hat-tricks, in the season just gone.


"I think I have had a good season this year and it's paid off with this contract," said the 18-year-old.


"I'm delighted. There will be a lot more opportunities for youngsters this season with the Johnstone Paints Trophy and the FA Cup. We'll need a big squad and hopefully us youngsters will get a chance. "I like to play just being the striker and create things. I prefer to play in the hole but I can play as a striker too."


Nana, also 18, contributed 14 goals for the under 18s after being released by West Ham a year ago. He made the first team bench for the final game of last season against QPR.


He said: "I want to thank God for this opportunity. I also want to thank the staff at the club like Ronnie Branson and Mark Burton for all their support and belief, as well as Ben Mansford and the gaffer Danny Wilson.  Hopefully I can kick on from pre-season. It's a case of looking at the people in front of you and taking advice from them and learning off them but also trying to challenge them and become better than them so you get in the first team."


Doncaster lad Abbott, who went out on loan to Harrogate Town before Christmas, said: "I'm really happy to have been given a deal by the gaffer and hopefully next season I can show just what I can do in the first team. No one wants to get relegated, but now that we are in League One, as a younger player, I think it will give me more of an opportunity to challenge for a place in the first team and stake a claim.


"I'm a creative player who likes to get on the ball, but I can mix it up as well.  I'll give my all and I'm not scared to put my foot in. I've been able to get a lot of goals from midfield."