Barnsley head coach Valerien Ismael has said that Ben Williams is under “no pressure” to play this season, with the focus on getting the defender ready for next year.
The 21-year-old has not been able to play a single minute in this campaign after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in pre-season.
His recovery is still ongoing, and the Wales Under-21 international has been in the gym and has started to do work on the pitch to build up his fitness.
However, Ismael has said that the target is for Williams to be fit and ready for next season, rather than rushing him back to play in the current one.
“He trains very well, very hard in the gym,” the Reds chief told The72 in his pre-match press conference ahead of their Championship trip to Watford on Tuesday night.
“I think now the next step in his recovery is on the pitch, but there’s still a long way to go. But it’s a positive sign now to see him on the pitch and out of the gym, to be outside, it’s a great feeling.
“We have to stay focused for the new season. If it happens before it will be a gift for him but I don’t think we need to put the pressure on the player.
“We don’t have time to make a pre-season for him, if you come back and want to play you have to be straight at 100 per cent.
“That’s why we have to go step-by-step with him, the next step is now underway and there’s no pressure on the player.”
Ismael took charge of Barnsley last October and is therefore yet to see the left-back fully fit and wearing a red shirt.
Several players have been in and out of favour at Oakwell as head coaches have come and gone, but the Frenchman is very confident that Williams will be a good fit for his team when available.
“Ben has a very good profile for the way to play football for Barnsley,” he said. “For sure when he comes back it will be a great moment for him and the team.”
Williams is at least fortunate to have time very much on his side when he returns from his lengthy spell on the sidelines.
He joined Barnsley from Blackburn Rovers in the summer of 2017, at the age of 18, and emerged as a first-team player in his second season at the club as he helped the side earn promotion out of League One.
The Preston-born player then made 20 appearances in the Championship last season, though struggled for game time after Daniel Stendel was replaced by Gerhard Struber as boss.
Williams’ chances of being a key player this season were smashed before it had even begun, but the indications from Ismael are that the opportunity will be there for him when he is ready.