AS his new team-mates were fending for themselves on an uninhabited island off the coast of Sweden at the start of pre-season, Christopher Schindler was being welcomed to Huddersfield Town by chairman Dean Hoyle.
The 27-year-old had just become the Terriers’ record signing in a £1.8m transfer from TSV Munich, the German’s medical being the reason why he had to stay behind as David Wagner and his players got their character-building trip in a remote part of Scandinavia under way.
It meant Schindler missed out on the delights of having to live in the wild with no electricity, toilet or bed. “They told me it was really nice and that I missed something special,” said the German, his words dripping with irony.
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As the rest of the squad fished for their own food and made fires to keep warm at night, Schindler was enjoying the company of the club’s chairman and his family. Talk, inevitably, turned to what the club could hope for in the upcoming season.
“I met the chairman after my medical,” said Schindler. “He talked to me about what he would like to achieve this season but, obviously, it was a lot less than what we have now. It was a good talk because he had exactly the same idea as the boss and that is important. They go in one way, one direction and this is what they did. I got a good feeling from the beginning.”
Schindler’s belief that calling time on his 17 years with 1860 was the best thing for his career has been borne out by Town securing a place at Wembley.
Now, though, the final step towards the Premier League has to be taken as Huddersfield and Reading do battle over what will be a minimum £200m windfall even if relegated after just one season among the elite.
“It is a lot of money,” said Schindler, whose only previous experience of the play-offs came when 1860 avoided relegation from Bundesliga 2 with a 2-1 aggregate victory over Holstein Kiel in 2015.
It was a good talk because he had exactly the same idea as the boss and that is important.Huddersfield Town’s Christopher Schindler
“But we have invested everything. We do not have the most expensive squad but we are now in with a chance of making this happen.
“The play-offs with 1860 were massive games. But the Premier League is what everyone dreams of. This is going to be the most important game of my career.”
Schindler’s partnership with Michael Hefele at the heart of the defence will be crucial. The German duo have been Wagner’s first-choice pairing since November, a friendship that began as teenagers back home in Bavaria being put to good use.
Not that the duo hit it off straight away back then. Hefele enjoys reminding his defensive partner of the trials he attended at 1860 as a boy when Schindler was already on the books and captain of the Under-15s team. “I had to do some passing with him,” Hefele told his amused team-mates in front of Schindler. “But he did not want me in his team. He sent me s*** balls, the worst balls. The manager just said to me ‘leave’.”
Schindler laughs at this before holding his arm at a height of around five feet: “He was only that big then. But we had a chat about all this stuff (after joining Town), and now it is all right.”
Town’s Germanic influence has been a big feature of this season’s fairytale rise, Wagner’s deep knowledge of football in his home country has allowed Town to raid the market to bring in not only Hefele and Schindler but also Chris Lowe, Elias Kachunga and Collin Quaner.
“We came here and started straight away, so didn’t have a lot of time to think about it,” said Schindler when asked about how quickly he and his fellow Germans settled. “There are a lot of differences between here and Germany.
“In the private life, it is different. I find it more personal here. That is a good thing. For example, in Germany I did not know my neighbour. But here, I find friends. My neighbour knocked on my door.
“Of course, I am here to play football. And that also went very well. Our English has got better. I think we understood almost everything, but it was a bit harder to get used to speaking.
“To spend so much time with the lads helped a lot. On the pitch, the key words we learned quite quickly, and the rest also when we were in the hotel and chatting with each other.”