Barnsley v Birmingham City: Dominik Frieser’s thriving under Markus Schopp at Barnsley

DOMINIK FRIESER much prefers the sight of Markus Schopp now than he did when he was growing up in their home city of Graz.

The Barnsley striker was a big boyhood supporter of AZ Grazer, whose nickname is Die Roten.

In English that of course translates as ‘The Reds’, the moniker also used for the club where he now plies his trade to good effect.

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Across town, Barnsley’s Graz-born head coach Schopp – a cultured Austrian midfielder of some note – had two spells with AZ’s derby foes Sturm Graz, with Frieser not wishing to see too much of his talent on derby day.

OPENING SALVO: Dominik Frieser of Barnsley celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal at Queens Park Rangers last weekend. Picture: Jacques Feeney/Getty Images.

“I am from the other team in Graz...Grazer AK. It is the biggest rivalry in Styria,” Frieser said with a sense of pride as opposed to matter-of-factness.

“You cannot compare football from 2000 to now. It’s always faster now. But with the games that I watched, he was a quick player who scored important goals and also for the national team.”

Schopp’s reputation as a technical, ball-playing footballer is well established in his native Austria and his TSV Hartberg side who won friends and influenced people in the Austrian Bundesliga were an extension of him in that regard.

It helps to explain why Frieser was happy when he heard that his compatriot was heading to Oakwell in the summer as the replacement for Valerien Ismael, whose style was based around organisation, relentless pressing, physicality and directness.

MENTOR: Barnsley head coach Markus Schopp. Picture: Jacques Feeney/Getty Images.

The early days of Schopp’s regime – where a style makeover has seen Barnsley attempt to introduce a passing style through the thirds while retaining those gegenpressing traits – has seen Frieser come to the fore.

A historic first goal at Oakwell a fortnight ago and another eye-catching strike in last weekend’s game at QPR have provided a sense of personal well-being for Frieser. Schopp is delighted with his progress, but also wants more.

Frieser, who moved to Barnsley from LASK Linz 12 months ago, commented: “For sure, I was also thinking it was good for me (when Schopp became head coach).

“I am not the biggest and like to play on the ground and we do this now and it is better for me.

INJURED: Barnsley's Mads Andersen. Picture: PA Wire.

“We played against his former team three or four times and they (Hartsberg) also tried to play from the back and are doing really well in Austria and it is an awesome team with not much money.”

On the qualities of Frieser, Schopp is also effusive, but adds a caveat.

“Dominik is a hard working guy and it is unbelievable what he does off the ball and he has contributed with his goals,” he said.

“He gives us something that we need and gives us some depth which some other attacking guys don’t. I am glad with his performances, but he still has a lot of potential to be better.”

In terms of his physical strength and ability to look after himself, Frieser has certainly got better after being the first to admit he did not realise what he had let himself in for after switching from Austria to England last year.

He quickly realised that power had a big place in the Championship and that finesse could not just be relied upon.

The forward promptly hit the gym as he had never previously done before and those hard yards are reaping dividends.

Frieser said: “When I played my first game, I thought the defenders were really physically hard and I knew I had to work. Now it is better.

“I went to the gym (in Austria), but not that much.

“Not like in England where it is a big part of the game and I also see the Under-16s and Under-18s in the gym.

“In Austria, they don’t go to the gym when you are 16. It is working on the pitch and trying to work on your technique. I enjoy it now, to be honest and like it. It is good.

“It has helped me to go the gym, while the style of football helps me now and fits better to me. It is easier for me.”

For Frieser, there is friendly rivalry in a family in which his sister plays for Sturm Graz and his younger brother is a young player making his way at one of his former clubs in Kapfenberger SV.

Later on in the autumn, his loved ones will hopefully be able to watch him in action at Oakwell and he cannot wait for that day.

He continued: “My sister plays for the Austrian Under-19s national team and for Sturm Graz and my brother also played in the third league in Austria. My sister is a number ten with good technique and my brother is a number six and a good fighter!

“The rules are changing now and now there is a chance that my family can come (to watch).

“They did not come for the whole of last year. In November, they will come for the first time to watch games for two to three weeks.

“Now in Austria, there are many Barnsley supporters and my family and friends have shirts from me.”