Barnsley FC: Markus Schopp keeping it simple in order to help Reds pull out of slide

On so many levels, it has been a difficult few months for Barnsley Football Club since West Bromwich Albion snaffled their head coach Valerien Ismael but as his successor, Markus Schopp, freely admits, “nobody cares about that”.

Barnsley manager Markus Schopp Picture: Tony Johnson

There are lots of mitigating factors behind the Reds’ poor start to the season – losing key playing, coaching and administrative personnel, poor recruitment the coach is not in control of, work permit and fitness issues with new signings and important injuries are all high on the list – and Schopp says it is because his bosses see “the bigger picture” that he remains in a job despite 12 games without a win, the last six all lost.

The return to training this week of a number of injured players is good news but does mean one less excuse.

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Schopp says part of his solution is keeping things simple and the uncomplicated truth is, he has to start winning – at Ashton Gate tomorrow, where Bristol City last won in front of fans in February 2020, and at relegation rivals Derby County and Hull City next week.

UNDER PRESSURE: Barnsley manager Markus Schopp Picture: Tony Johnson

“It’s a really hard situation but in these moments you can make the biggest steps forward,” argues the Austrian, but the question is if he will make the step with them.

“We are facing a tough moment,” he acknowledges. “I’m not stupid. I know we have to get better results. This is what we wanted from the first day but it hasn’t worked that way so we have the next chance on Saturday.”

There were positives to cling to in the final 12 minutes (plus stoppage time) which saw them come from 3-0 down to only lose 3-2 at home to Sheffield United on Sunday, with Devante Cole and Aaron Leya Iseka scoring their first goals of the season. Training has been much busier this week too.

“Almost all the lads are taking part in the training sessions,” says Schopp. “A couple are a bit more protected but we are on a different level to a couple of days and weeks ago.

FEELING THE HEAT: Barnsley head coach, Markus Schopp Picture: Bruce Rollinson

“It’s a positive that Mads Andersen is really close (to playing).

“Carlton (Morris) still needs a bit of time but he is participating and even Josh Benson is back on the field. We are thinking about all of the guys (except Morris playing on Saturday) but we don’t want a big risk to put a guy on the pitch and he’s out again.

“Aapo (Halme) is the last guy not participating in the training sessions. I think he will be reintegrated in the international break.

“To have players like Mads Andersen and even Carlton back in part of the training sessions, you have different characters back – players who could step into a leadership role, players who have already given a lot to the club.

“It’s important for the rest of the group to know a couple of players are coming back who can help them. Now we have to make the next step with a good result.”

He feels his players are close to playing as he wants them to, and more behind him than recent comments from Cole and Callum Brittain would suggest.

“We saw a lot of games where a lot of guys did a good job but we were punished for individual mistakes and if we don’t stop that it will be an ongoing story,” he admits. “Throughout (Sunday’s) game I saw a lot of things that were going in the right direction, the problem was we got punished for individual mistakes again.

“It’s easy to only point out the negatives but it’s so important now to bring out the positive things.

“(But) don’t worry, we are united. This is not a problem.

“The players get asked about certain moments in the game and in this situation we are facing right now every player has to explain a lot of things but at the end it’s so important what we practice, what we talk about, is seen on the pitch.

“After the game, everybody has a certain feeling about it but my impression is the lads know exactly where we have to get better.”

The fans are clearly not convinced, and have been voicing their concerns at games. They want Schopp sacked.

“When you have a record like mine, not winning this many games, it’s logical that the fans are going to point out one person, the manager – that’s how it works,” he says.” It’s my biggest goal, to start winning and to put things in the right way.

“As a coach I’ve faced situations with negative results. I’ve tried to not make it too complicated. It’s so important for the lads you don’t go in different directions.”

The longer the negative results go on, the more of these uncomfortable press conferences Schopp is facing. Championship fixture lists mean they come around a lot but here he is again.

“It’s part of my job and I know your job is not to tell me how good everything is, I totally understand that,” he says

“I have to face these questions. I try to be a manager who is transparent, I would prefer to sit here winning every week and you ask about my team for tomorrow but that’s not the way it works.

“In moments like this you can make the biggest steps forward, the same in life.

“If you learn from these lessons you will get bigger. I never thought it would be easy. Never.”