Connor Barron Interview
Young Connor Barron from the Dons’ under 18s squad hit the headlines last month when he put away a hat-trick of penalties in a game against Celtic. His achievement earned him the Mintra Group Moment of the Month Award for August.
The Red Matchday editor spoke to the 18’s skipper recently.
Ironically, watching on that afternoon was Paul Hartley, the last Don to achieve the feat back in August 2010. Just like Paul, Connor was always confident he would find the back of the net.
“After training I always practice my penalties. I always make sure I get a couple of good ones in before I stop. I know what I am going to do and where I am going to put the ball before I step forward to take it. I never change my mind. If I was undecided, I’m more likely to miss. I make my decision and then step up with confidence. I believe if you take the perfect penalty, if the power and placement is correct, then the ball should be out of reach of the keeper and he shouldn’t be able to save it.
“We do try to stay back to do extra training as much as we can. I am always trying to do more with the coaches and I want to be the last one off the pitch. The new training facility will be massive for us. Being able to go back out and do individual stuff after lunch will be beneficial.
“When I’m away with Scotland, I look around me and see the players from other clubs, particularly those who are from teams in England. Almost all of them are from clubs that have their own training grounds – some of the best in the country.
“You can see they have that little edge and I’ve always believed that has come from the fact they come from club’s with really good facilities and they are able to work more on their skills and put in the extra hours.
“To compensate for that, I have always worked on my game out with the club to make sure I am up to that standard. I will go out to Balgownie myself or go down to the local pitch so I can do extra stuff. I just grab a ball and then get to work.
“Recently when we had a day off, Ethan Ross and myself got the key for Balgownie to go and do some training. We got the goals out and set them up and did some individual work for a couple of hours. When we get the training ground, we won’t need to do that, so we are all very excited about moving. It can only help develop the young players at Aberdeen.”
The U18s have made a perfect start to the season with five wins out of five after defeating Hibs, Celtic, Hearts, Kilmarnock and Motherwell.
“We feel like we have a strong side this year. The majority of the squad played last season so we are all a year older and wiser. And the players who moved up from the U16s this summer are all very good players. There is no reason why we can’t have a good showing in the U18 League and also do well in the SFA Youth Cup. Having reached the final two years ago and then the semi-finals last year, we are determined to keep knocking on the door in that competition.
“We have started the season well. In the first two games we beat Hibs and Celtic and they are always two of the strongest sides in the league. I missed the league opener but was back for the Celtic game. It was good to get a win over them, it’s always good to beat them at any level. Throughout my time in the AFC Youth Academy they were always the team to beat, so we have always had a good rivalry with them at all the different age levels and the reserves.
“The games are normally always really close. At U18 level we beat them on the final day of last season when we produced a brilliant comeback and then this season we’ve beaten them again. It shows you how much we have come on after a difficult start last season and shows you what we could achieve this year.
“Personally, I felt last season went ok. It was my first year as a full-time professional and it did take time to get used it. I would have liked to have had more opportunities in the reserves than I did but it’s up to me to kick on and hopefully I will get my chance so I can then maybe move up again and push on to the first team. That is what every young player at the club has to aim for. If I keep doing what I am doing at U18 level and more, I know I will get opportunities. I’m training a lot more this season with the reserves and also with the first team a couple of times. I am hoping for more of that.
“It is a massive confidence booster when you get the shout to train with them. All the boys were great with me. They make me feel at ease by having a laugh with me and they pass on advice during training. You never feel like an outsider coming into the group.
“I just have to keep working hard and keep impressing every day, impressing the gaffer, Tony, Paul and Barry, whether that be in training or a game situation, in the U18s or the Reserves. Every day I challenge myself to get better.
“Working with Barry Robson has helped me. He is someone who has played in my position at the highest level. After every game he will take me into his office to look at little clips that the video analyst guys have prepared and will give me advice. He will tell me what I could have done better, what I did well.
“Barry is a very good coach. He gets the best out of the boys and tactically he is very switched on. He takes a lot from when he was playing and passes that on. I did see him play when he was at Aberdeen and remember him from the League Cup final side. He has told me to go and look at some of his footage on YouTube and look at the great goals he has scored! I have ignored him so far!
“I’m really enjoying my football at the moment. Since I have had that chance to train with the first team, I know my chance is there and the door is open for me. It’s up to me now to go and take that chance. Getting the opportunity to be on the bench at Livingston was a great occasion for me and I learnt a lot just from being around the squad on matchday, seeing how players prepare and all of those things. It all adds to my education and I got a real confidence boost from it.
“It meant pulling out of the Scotland Under 18 squad for the tournament in Istanbul at the end of September. It’s a pity they clashed like that but it was more beneficial for me to get a chance to be a part of the first team squad here through that period, in training and matchdays.
“Being with Scotland is great. I know most the boys who went to Istanbul because the squad is pretty much the same as it has been in recent years right the way through the age groups. There are always a couple of extra boys who have not been part of the setup before but on the whole, I know the boys and get on with them well. I have always been the only one from Aberdeen to go away from my age level so at first it was a daunting and getting used to the boys was a bit harder, but they were all great with me.
“It is good that there is an U18 Scotland side, something that has come in recently. All the top nations have U18 sides so it is important we play games at this level as well, otherwise we would have been having a break from International games and waiting for a chance with the U19s. The step up from U17s to U19s is quite big so this will help bridge the game and gives us more experience of playing games at a national level. Billy Stark is in charge of the U18s and U19s so I hope to go and impress at some point this season and then push for the Scotland U19 squad.”