Goalkeeper Jamie Searle has signed for English League One club Barnsley, following in the footsteps of other All Whites including Colin Walker, Chris Wood, Rory Fallon and Leo Bertos.
The 21-year-old ‘keeper, who played for the OlyWhites at last year’s Tokyo Olympics and made his full New Zealand international debut in March, will join the Yorkshire club on July 1.
Barnsley were relegated from the English Championship last season, finishing bottom and conceding 73 goals in their 46 games.
For 6’ 5″ Searle, a return to the Championship is the main target and he’s itching to join his new club.
“It’s been a while coming. To really go out there and show what I can do is really what I’m looking forward to.
“I want to make my debut, play as many games as I can and do as well as I can for the club. For the club, it’s to get back to the Championship. That’s everyone’s goal.”
Searle’s journey from the Waikato to Yorkshire
Barnsley becomes Searle’s third professional club after stints with Aston Villa and Swansea City since heading overseas in 2019 from New Zealand where he played for Waikato clubs Melville United and, briefly, Cambridge.
Searle credited Melville coach Sam Wilkinson with kick-starting his professional career.
“I had a coach out in New Zealand, Sam Wilkinson, who mentioned the possibility of going over to the UK after school.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do after school. He said he’d get me a few trials out there, one being Aston Villa, which was my first club. It all took off from there really.”
Barnsley’s goalkeeping coach, Tom Fawdry, spent time in New Zealand and Australia, so he and Searle already have things in common.
“I hadn’t met Tom before,” Searle said. “But speaking to him, we know a lot of the same people. He’s played with players I’ve played with, he knows a lot of the same people.
“There’s definitely that connection of back home.”
Watch Searle’s first interview at Barnsley:
Searle follows other New Zealand internationals to Barnsley
Searle will follow in the footsteps of other All Whites who have been on the books of Barnsley.
These include striker Colin Walker, who has been the youth coach at Barnsley, Chris Wood, Leo Bertos and Rory Fallon.
Searle told the Barnsley FC site: “I spoke to a couple of them recently. I haven’t spoken to them personally about Barnsley itself, just because purely the last time I spoke to them I didn’t know I was coming here for sure.
“But now that I’m here, I’m definitely going to have a conversation with them about it, and see what they say about it.”
Searle has been down the pecking order for coach Danny Hay’s latest All Whites squad, behind Oli Sail, Stefan Marinovic, and Matthew Gould, but has age on his side for future opportunities.
Barnsley FC Chief Executive Officer, Khaled El-Ahmad said: “We are happy that Jamie has decided that Barnsley is the best place for him to take the next step in his career and will bolster our already excellent options in the goalkeeper position.”
Main photo: Searle set to join Barnsley on July 1.