How lockdown helped Mads Andersen become a Barnsley hero

FOR professional sports people across the globe, lockdown in spring was a disheartening time which most would be keen to forget.

Barnsley's Mads Andersen. Picture Tony Johnson.

As far as Barnsley defender Mads Andersen is concerned, it could well be the making of him.

The young Danish centre-half, who had a tough time of it in his first season at Oakwell ahead of the Covid-19 outbreak, used the hiatus away from the game to mentally regroup and refresh – and in many respects, start again.

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A hesitant, unconvincing performer in the main, the former Horsens centre-half made some high-profile gaffes in an unsatisfactory start to his Reds career, with a nadir reached when he was dropped after a damaging home loss to Birmingham on February 11.

That he would end the truncated season as one of the club’s star turns in their stirring act of relegation escapology after the game’s return in June is testament to his personality and character and the game’s wonderful capacity to surprise.

On using football’s break to his advantage after a hitherto stressful campaign, Andersen – who netted in Barnsley’s weekend friendly win at Crewe and is preparing for his second season in England with renewed confidence – said: “When the corona break was there, I just cleared my mind and came back and made it simple. I think the time out helped me.

“What has happened since is a massive boost and gives me a lot of confidence to take with me this season.

“Of course, we were in the bottom (three) for 311 days and there were some difficult times which were not so positive. But that is part of football.

“When I think about the end of the season, I will always be happy. But now, it is a new season starting and where my focus is.”

After three weeks ‘chilling’ back home in Denmark following the end of last season, Andersen has breezed back to Barnsley with the mindset of a player now comfortable in his surroundings, attuned to his role in the team and visibly more confident.

Two sage figures are worthy of a mention for their role in Andersen’s renaissance.

The wise guidance of Andersen’s central defensive partner Michael Sollbauer, whose arrival ultimately proved the catalyst for Barnsley’s successful battle against the drop is one obvious one.

Gerhard Struber, who brought Andersen straight back into the side upon football’s resumption in the Championship, is another with the Dane massively vindicating the faith shown by Reds head coach.

“I had three weeks at home with my family and just stayed there and had a good time and it was lovely.” Andersen said.

As for the impact of Sollbauer and Struber, he continued: “Me and Michael have a very good relationship and communicate really good and also off the pitch as well, which is a good start.

“If he shouts, that’s good and how it should be.

“I am settled and it is good to be here. When Gerhard (first) came, I was out of the squad. But he gave me some trust and obviously he means a lot to me and is a good coach as well.”