Michael Sollbauer plots life after football as Barnsley push for Premier League

IT says everything about Michael Sollbauer that he turned up with a notepad and pen on press duty with Barnsley recently.

Planning ahead: Barnsley's Michael Sollbauer, challenging Owls' Josh Windass. Picture: Steve Ellis

On a Zoom call, the Reds centre-half was as diligent and professional in his work off the pitch as he is on it. He might just have jotted down a few notes for the future as well.

In the here and now, the 30-year-old is a calming figure at the back and just as he played an important part in the club’s memorable ‘Great Escape’ at the end of 2019-2o, so he is now involved in a story which has the potential to be even more immense at the business end of a season.

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At a senior stage of his career, the Austrian defender has a fair few miles left on his footballing clock. Equally, he is the sort who you would expect to be sensible enough to start looking a little bit further down the line as well. And he is.

Barnsley's Michael Sollbauer (left) and Norwich City's Przemyslaw Placheta battle for the ball (Picture: PA)

Management and coaching appeals to him and it is surely no surprise. He is intelligent and clearly a leader and an example to follow. Taking responsibility comes naturally to him.

After conceding a definitive own goal in a vital late-season game at Leeds United last July, which left Barnsley’s second-tier status hanging by a thread with two matches remaining, not many players would have spoken to the media the following day.

Sollbauer did and it took a special type of person to do that at a time when his club looked highly likely to drop into the third tier.

It would be to football’s benefit that individuals like Sollbauer are not lost to the game and continue to contribute when their playing days are over.

Michael Sollbauer of Barnsley reacts to his chance being cleared off the line during the FA Cup match with Chelsea at Oakwell, Barnsley. (Picture: Darren Staples/Sportimage)

Fortunately, he wants to stay involved and is looking at a second career in this profession. He should not be short of a reference or three.

He has certainly gathered plenty of knowledge during the eventful tenure of Valerien Ismael, whose Barnsley side are well placed in the Championship play-offs heading into the home straight, which begins at home to Reading on Good Friday.

Sollbauer told The Yorkshire Post: “I do not do notes on every training session, but on every coach, I will try to pick the best things in terms of what I think is good, particularly for me.

“I also write down a lot of things from my head after we have worked together. I take the best things out for me and also for the teams and the situations to have in mind, so I also have the notes for later.”

Barnsley's Michael Sollbauer up against Sheffield Wednesday last time out (Picture: Steve Ellis)

On the specific appeal of coaching and management after hanging up his boots, he continued: “Of course. I have been in this business for 10 years now and know a lot of situations – and how to deal with them in a good and bad way.

“I have had a lot of experience and I would be really interested to develop players.

“I do not feel too old, but it is good to see the younger lads developing at this high level and what they have achieved in the past few months has been a big step for them as individuals, but also the team. We have grown together and taken steps very well.

“This is a big motivation for me and you can see the rewards we are getting with Dee-Kay (Daryl Dike) and Michal (Helik) with their international call-ups and it is great to see.”

From a personal perspective, Sollbauer may, by his own admission, not be entirely satisfied given his time on the bench this year, but equally he is very complimentary of the feats of others in a Barnsley backline whose form has turned heads this season.

Two of them in the case of Mads Andersen and Helik have marked themselves out to be, quite simply, two of the best central defenders in the second tier.

Andersen has carried on from where he left off after the first lockdown. No Championship rival has eclipsed his number of clearances (202) this season and he is also ranked second in terms of his headers won and interceptions.

To most observers, it is a case of when, not if, he gets a senior call-up for Denmark.

If he needs any further inspiration, it should arrive from team-mate Helik, who made his senior Poland debut in their World Cup qualifier in Hungary last week.

The former Cracovia player was rested for Sunday’s win over Andorra and is hoping for involvement against England today.

Few are better qualified to speak about the credentials of the pair than Sollbauer.

He continued: “For me, for this type of football, they are really great and talented players. Mads is a very good player with all the skills and he just had to put them in the right way.

“This year, he has had some really good performances and for me, it is not so special as I thought he would.

“Michal took time to adapt in September and October. Of course, this is normal.

“But we spoke a lot as he is a bit older and we have a good relationship and I am very proud that he has developed so well. He is very important for the team and squad.

“They will both have a great future.”

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