SLEEPLESS nights characterised Christopher Schindler’s first relegation fight.
Part of this could be put down to TSV 1860 Munich being the club he had joined as an eight-year-old, meaning he felt the pressure more than most as the drop to the third tier of German football loomed large.
Schindler was also captain, adding to the burden on the lifelong fan during a 2014-15 season that saw 1860 only survive courtesy of two goals in the final five minutes of a relegation play-off clash with Holsten Kiel.
Mention of that campaign by The Yorkshire Post initially brings a wince from Schindler, suggesting it is a memory he has no wish to reprise.
But the 28-year-old does admit lessons learned in that relegation fight have stood him in good stead since arriving in England as Huddersfield Town’s record signing during the summer of 2016.
“I do not feel the same pressure now that I did back then,” said Schindler, ahead of today’s trip to Leicester City. “As a player, your personality develops and that was a different situation because that was my club, in a way.
“I played there for 17 years and the targets were different. I was captain of the team and had responsibility, so it is not comparable to here at Huddersfield.
“Plus, I am now more mature as a player and more experienced. I can separate football from life away from the game, which was not as easy in Munich as it is here.”
Such a level-headed approach is needed at Town right now. Five games into the season and the Terriers are still searching for their first win.
A lack of goals has again been a major problem. David Wagner’s side have found the net just twice so far this term, leaving the outlook among some almost as gloomy as the weather has been in Huddersfield over the past 48 hours.
Scratch a little below the surface, however, and maybe some perspective can be added to the club’s start.
First, the two points gleaned from those opening five games is identical to the tally taken from the corresponding fixtures in 2017-18 if newly promoted Cardiff City replace neighbours Swansea City.
Town’s goal tally this time around is slightly better, too, with those home fixtures against Swansea, Crystal Palace and Chelsea last term bringing a solitary strike, while the trips to Everton and Manchester City saw the Yorkshire club fire a pair of blanks.
“Is it my toughest time?” added Schindler, Town’s reigning Player of the Year. “I don’t know. We are five games in so of course it is never easy when you don’t have a positive run.
“But you have to keep going. Once you get a positive result, you believe more and your body doesn’t feel sore.
“The topics, the questions from outside are a little bit less, which gives you more energy for your own performance.
“I feel the experience of last season helps because we know what we did last year. We can take that as confidence for this season.”
Life is not about to get any easier for Huddersfield. After today’s trip to a stadium where they kicked off 2018 with a 3-0 loss, Town have home games against Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool either side of the visit to Burnley.
After that tricky quartet of fixtures comes an away game at Watford, the Premier League’s surprise package this season, to round off October.
“I know it is a long season, but there is no time to waste,” added Schindler. “The past two seasons, we started fast and that helped us to, first, win promotion and then stay up last season.
“That has not happened this time. But we never give up. We know that we are a smaller club and that we will have bad results at times.
“It is a big test for our mentality and character as well, and this is what the manager has said to us. But I am sure our dressing room has got what it takes to get back on track and perform.”
As Yorkshire football has proved in recent years, the second season in the top flight can prove to be much more problematic than when still basking in the glow of promotion.
Hull City have twice gone down after two years among the elite in the past decade, while Bradford City did the same in 2001.
A summer when Huddersfield again invested heavily in the transfer market was designed to avoid suffering the same fate.
As yet, however, little of note has been seen of the new signings with Ramadan Sobhi again injured for today’s trip to the King Power Stadium.
The Egyptian, signed for £5.7m from Stoke City, has played just six minutes this term, while Isaac Mbenza and Adama Diakhaby have shown flashes of potential but little more.
Ditto Juninho Bacuna, whose only telling contribution came via his quite spectacular own goal from the halfway line at Stoke in the Carabao Cup. Erik Durm has looked the best of the summer arrivals but his injury record – the German missed all of last season at Borussia Dortmund – means he has to be carefully managed.
“The expectation changes a little bit if you stay up one year,” said Schindler. “You invest money in new players, and of course everyone thinks this club is growing as well.
“It is not that easy to say, ‘Bring this or that player in and everything will be okay’. It’s just about the result.
“Last year we had a fast start and took confidence from that. We haven’t had that this year,” he said.
“That is why it is really important to get back on track as soon as possible.”