Defender Angus MacDonald admits he is “surprised” with his personal progress since moving to Barnsley.
The former England C centre back was captaining Torquay United in the National League this time last season before moving to Oakwell in the summer.
He expected to sit on the bench with Marc Roberts and Alfie Mawson ahead of him before the latter completed a big-money move to Premier League outfit Swansea City.
Since then MacDonald has made himself a regular in Paul Heckingbottom’s side, making 15 appearances in the league so far this season, and admitted: “I’m surprised at where I am but not where the club is. We’re where we deserve to be.
“It’s a massive club with a lot of history and we deserve to be there, with everything we’ve achieved.
“It’s a massive step up and it hasn’t sunk in yet to be honest. I expected to get a couple of games and kick on next season.
“Obviously coming in because of the departure of Alfie Mawson left the door open for me and I wanted to do my best when I came in and now I can kick on.
“I’ve come on leaps and bounds physically and mentally, it’s more the tempo of the game that if you make a mistake here you’ll get punished, whereas you can recover in Non-League.
“No disrespect to the Non-League but the strikers here are much more clinical and teams put a lot more pressure on you.”
MacDonald will be spending Christmas Day away from his family for only the second time, but they will be up to watch the game on Boxing Day, when the Reds host struggling Blackburn Rovers.
However, the defender is looking forward to spending the day with his dog.
He said: “It’s exactly the same, you enjoy Christmas Day and then look forward to the big Boxing Day game, whether that be home or away.
“It’ll just be me and my dog this Christmas so I don’t think there’ll be much talking about football.
“It’s different to previous years, it’s only the second I’ve spent away from the family.
“It’ll be nice just to chill out with my dog to be honest.”
Heckingbottom insists the Reds won’t underestimate Blackburn: “They’re a team who are on the up. They’ll be coming to us and paying us the respect that we deserve.”