Injuries, not coronavirus, biggest threat for Barnsley boss Gerhard Struber

Barnsley's Alex Mowatt comes under pressure from Cardiff's Joe Ralls and Leandro BacunaBarnsley's Alex Mowatt comes under pressure from Cardiff's Joe Ralls and Leandro Bacuna
Barnsley's Alex Mowatt comes under pressure from Cardiff's Joe Ralls and Leandro Bacuna | JPI Resell ©Dean Atkins Photography
FOR Barnsley head coach Gerhard Struber, the numbers simply do not stack up.

While preparing his players for the proposed resumption of Championship football on June 20 in just a two-and-a-half week window where full contact training is permitted is demanding and far from easy, his unease is increased significantly by the itinerary to finish the season.

Second-tier clubs have been informed by the EFL that they must play nine games in 32 days, with the season set to end on July 22.

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For Struber and other managers, the intense schedule facing Championship players – who will have only returned to small-scale training 26 days before the season restarts – is unfair and at worst, downright dangerous.

Barnsley manager Gerhard Struber. Picture: Bradley Collyer/PABarnsley manager Gerhard Struber. Picture: Bradley Collyer/PA
Barnsley manager Gerhard Struber. Picture: Bradley Collyer/PA | PA Wire

As far as he is concerned, it will represent a bigger day-to-day worry than players catching Covid-19 in a squad which is not among the biggest in the division.

Struber said: “I hope the EFL make a better schedule.

“This is a very difficult schedule. It is a big challenge to play the games in five weeks.

“I hope the EFL listen to what the managers need and we have more discussions from the bottom up and not dropped down from the EFL. This is very important – a longer duration.

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“We have no worries about the Corona(virus), but we have a lot of problems about muscle injuries.

“The time when we end the Championship, we (will) need 40 days. This is the responsibility for the league and it is about all the players in the Championship.

“It is also my responsibility for my players when we play every game in the duration after three days (rest). We create injuries and in the end, this is the consequence.”

During this week, clubs, at different junctures, have been returning to contact training, with second-tier clubs now waiting for permission from the game’s authorities to play friendlies.

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This week, the Premier League told its clubs they can play warm-up games, under strict restrictions, before their June 17 restart.

Struber is hoping that his Barnsley side will be able to play a ten-versus-ten friendly tomorrow, subject to approval.

On the subject of warm-up games, the Austrian added: “Yes, of course. It is very important.

“When every club has no chance to play a friendly game, it is the same challenge for every club. The biggest problem is when other clubs make a friendly game and Barnsley make no friendly.

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“I hope that every club is clear on the way with the advice from the EFL and also in the training in groups. This week, we had the challenge to go into groups and the whole team be in (group) training by the end of the week.

“When every club does what the EFL needs, it is the same challenge for every club. But if I hear from some other clubs that they do special things, then we have a problem with fair play. We work strictly with the measures and hope every other club does.”

For Struber, it is about controlling the controllables. Behind the scenes, the Reds hierarchy have already made clear their opposition to relegation in a strongly-worded letter to the EFL and they have formalised that with their proposal for relegation to be scrapped if the divisions do not complete all 46 league fixtures.

The so-called “Barnsley Alternative Proposal” – which is unlikely to succeed – is one of a number that will be put to the 71 league clubs on Tuesday when the fate of their campaigns should finally be decided.

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Struber – whose side are bottom of the Championship and seven points adrift of safety – added: “When the league tell my club and the whole Championship that we begin on June 20, it is not helpful for me to always speak about what is fair and not fair.

“The only ones who can speak about the stuff behind the team are the other people in the club. It is not so necessary for me. I have other tasks and responsibilities.”

Meanwhile, Struber has confirmed that he has reached an agreement with Red Bull Salzburg for loan defender Killian Ludewig to stay on loan for the rest of 2019-20 – with his deal having been due to expire at the end of June.

Keeper Sami Radlinger, whose contract is due to expire at the end of the month, has also told Barnsley that he will fulfil his season’s commitments, according to Struber.

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Mallik Wilks and Cameron McGeehan remain out on loan at Hull City and Portsmouth.

Toby Sibbick is back training following his loan spell at Hearts – with the SPL season over – but he cannot play any more games for Barnsley in 2019-20.

Struber remains hopeful that midfielder Kenny Dougall, out of contract on June 30, will stay put until the end of 2019-20.

There is a further year’s option in the club’s favour.

The Reds chief said: “He (Dougall) is a very important player for the team and club and has very good energy.

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“He has not had an easy time with no game time, but he has shown me he is a big professional who works very hard. I hope he stays here until the last game.”

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