Barnsley v Sheffield United: Markus Schopp still maintains passion for challenge ahead at Oakwell

VERY much alone in a foreign country, without the benefit of his own support staff let alone his loved ones from back in Austria, Markus Schopp is a man short of friends at the moment.

Should Barnsley’s descent continue tomorrow at Oakwell, the noise from his dissenters will be even more incessant and the walk back to the home dressing room will be a long one.

The Reds head coach has been criticised not just for his playing style, tactics, lack of results and demeanour in press interviews, but also his passion. Or perceived lack of it.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Schopp may have his failings, but given the hurt which was clearly visible after Wednesday’s night’s wretched evening in Middlesbrough and on show in his press conference ahead of tomorrow’s derby, he is clearly a good and decent man who cares. He is certainly no cold fish.

Markus Schopp, head coach of Barnsley. (Photo by Jacques Feeney/Getty Images)

He might not be a tub-thumper on the touchline or someone who can excite the media, but passion comes in many shapes and forms.

He is not a force of nature on the touchline like Daniel Stendel, Gerhard Struber or, to lesser extent Valerien Ismael, who used to stand there in his technical area in cool and detached fashion, only to explode into life and incredulity if he witnessed something he did not like from an official or one of his players.

The fact that Schopp is far more understated than the aforesaid trio is used as another stick to beat him with by some.

The 47-year-old is a quietly-spoken professional who is undemonstrative on the touchline and does not deal in sound bytes to please people via the media or play to the galleries on a match-day and prefers to express himself on the training ground to ‘find solutions’ as he puts it, away from prying eyes. That is where he’s at his happiest.

Even at this tough time, he will stay true to himself. He will not turn into a chest-beating ‘ranter and raver’ tomorrow.

Schopp said: “That’s me. But that is nothing new.

“With the definition of passion, you can show passion in different ways. Everybody who knows me does know how I face the situation and I try to face the situation in my way.

“I try to put every second to make it better and do the things I can do. I do it in my best way.

“There are a lot of things I cannot influence and I learned it in my career as a player and as a coach. There are certain things you have to accept. Accepting does not mean you get beaten, but you have to handle the situation and this is how I face it.

“As a player, I have had two or three really difficult moments in my career and always after these two or three periods that I faced, I was getting bigger (as a person).

“That is how it works. You face the situation and do your best and learn to understand to help you get bigger (as a person).

“That will never end, no matter how it works out here. It is a never-ending story.”

Schopp is realistic enough to know that he is on the precipice in a managerial sense following such a desperate run of form.

A bad result tomorrow has the potential for things to turn toxic in terms of his own situation.

It is difficult, in truth, to see how much more he will be able to handle on a human level if that is the case.

There is little sympathy being thrown in his direction, despite the fact that luck has not exactly been kind in terms of being bequeathed with some unconvincing summer signings and some untimely injuries and Covid absentees. There were also other things that you cannot bargain for such as visa issues.

Not being able to bring in his own staff hasn’t helped either.

CEO Khaled El-Ahmad acknowledged: “You can look at it from that perspective and I would not be surprised if Markus feels that way.

“He came into a situation in pre-season where there were four staff who were supposed to leave with Valerien, but they were here and then they left a week or a couple of days in.

“You did not have a CEO or sporting director and he had to handle a lot of questions that a head coach or manager shouldn’t have to handle. He was not able to bring in his assistants and there was the whole group dynamic of getting to know the staff and continual changes in the staff.

“It was not an easy situation and quite uncommon in a football club.”