Luke Steele insists his preparations for Barnsley's FA Cup semi-final against Cardiff will not be disrupted by the potential heartbreak of being forced to miss the final. The goalkeeper has been one of the players of the competition so far this season and has already etched his name into Oakwell folklore after 10 games for the club.
The 23-year-old joined on loan from West Bromwich Albion – who face Portsmouth in the other semi-final – in February and produced a dazzling debut display to help Simon Davey's side claim an unforgettable 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield in the fifth round. He also kept a clean sheet as Barnsley knocked out the holders, Chelsea, in the quarter-finals. But Steele now heads to Wembley well aware he would be ineligible to face Albion in the final under the terms of his loan deal, should both teams progress. Steele, though, has vowed to remain professional no matter how his parent club perform against Portsmouth, the only Premier League side remaining in the competition, as the Yorkshire club bid to reach their first final in 96 years.
"I've been asked a million times this week," said Steele, who will join Barnsley on a permanent basis in the summer. "I'll take whatever comes on Saturday and try and approach the game come Sunday with the same attitude whether I know if I'm going to play – or not – in the final if we win. It's going to be a test but other players have done it and it's all about mental strength. Hopefully I've got the mental strength to keep my mind on the game."
A dispute had briefly threatened to scupper Steele's stay at Oakwell as the two clubs attempted to agree a loan extension until the end of the season and put a permanent move in place. A deal was brokered and Steele – who spent four years at Manchester United but never made a senior appearance – can realise his childhood dream of playing at Wembley.
"It took a little bit of time to get my future sorted but once I did I was delighted. I wanted a permanent move in the summer and I couldn't be happier. Now I'm looking forward to Sunday and as a kid I had dreams of playing at Wembley and now it's coming true. It's going to be a great occasion, but we are not just going to have a good day out and look good in front of the cameras – we're going there to beat Cardiff and get into the final. I just hope everyone is as focused as they should be."Reuse content