Why Markus Schopp needs solutions quickly at Barnsley

QUESTIONED about the importance of Barnsley’s next block of fixtures to the direction of the club’s season and his own future, Markus Schopp’s answer was clear and concise.

In truth, it was a rare moment of clarity in an unconvincing pre-match press conference ahead of the Reds’ resumption of Championship business at Reading. But it provided clarity all the same.

Speaking about the gravity of the third-from-bottom Reds’ forthcoming six Championship games before the next international break in a definitive-looking spell both for his team and himself, the Austrian sensibly chose not to look too far ahead.

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In the here and now, Schopp – whose stock among Reds supporters is perilously low – can only deal with the next game in front of him, which in his case is at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday. Anything else is foolhardy.

Barnsley head coach Markus Schopp. Picture Bruce Rollinson

The beleaguered Reds head coach commented: “I do not take a look at what happens in one month.

“For me, it is Reading and it is the next step. It is a tough one, but every game is a tough one.

“We will be prepared and convinced we can turn this around and this is the attitude and spirit I want to feel from the first second.”

Schopp is certainly no Churchillian-type orator who can instantly command the attention of an audience, but he will be savvy enough to know that only results now matter and not words, whatever he says.

Barnsley's Mads Anderson has been a big miss for the Reds this season. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

It is what happens when you are in charge of a side who are winless in nine matches and who have won just once in 11 league games at the start of a season which has been as humourless and colourless as the last campaign was joyful and vibrant.

The 47-year-old can justifiably point to having no luck in terms of the absence of two key players from 2020-21 in Mads Andersen and Carlton Morris, who are closer to a first-team return than they were, but with no scheduled date of return yet in sight.

Andersen took part in a tactical training session on Thursday for the first time this season and will undergo intensive work over the next few weeks.

Morris, out since mid-August with a knee injury, is progressing in his rehabilitation. But the fact that he is still not back in full training with his team-mates suggests that he is still some way off first-team contention yet.

The continued absence of Obbi Oulare has further compounded matters. It has become a bit of a saga, in truth.

The first on-pitch sighting of the Belgian, yet to make his debut since joining the club in the summer, appears to be no closer.

The current unavailability of another major summer signing in Josh Benson is also something that Schopp could have also seriously done without.

But given the way in which Barnsley’s performances, for all the disruptions in terms of selection, have collectively failed to provide consistent hope since the 2-2 draw at QPR on August 21, excuses have worn thin with disgruntled supporters.

Schopp acknowledged: “I was a player for a lot of years and I know how it works.

“The fans are hungry and they did not see games last season in the stadium and they watched it (on TV).

“It was so crucial for them to watch their team competing in the same way (this year).

“They have seen a team who tried everything to succeed and win the games. But the big difference is we did not win, especially at home where it was too easy to give away the points.

“The fans are upset, this is logical. It is up to me and us as a club to bring this in the right way.”

Just as supporters are deeply disappointed at the way things have gone after such a stellar 2020-21, so players are hurting inside.

After the recent late home loss to Millwall, defender Callum Brittain fronted up and candidly spoke of how the side were currently ‘disconnected’ and ‘static’ in their play and needed to build successful on-pitch relationships again. His words spoke volumes about the current malaise.

A two-week international hiatus has provided requisite time on the training ground to ‘find solutions’ as Schopp puts it. He and Barnsley must deal in quick ones.

On the words of Brittain, Schopp said: “If you don’t have the results, everybody is unhappy. I am the first to be unhappy and the players, fans and everyone wants results and we all know how important it is to get a good result to get confidence up.

“We have done a lot of patterns this week. But when we have made a step forward in the past, something happens – somebody gets injured or is out for Covid reasons.

“It is always easier to step ahead with good results when players feel they can improve in the way they want to play. Every week, something happens and it is tough. 

“But I have always said that these are not excuses, but situations we are facing right now. We have to find the solutions.”

Schopp certainly needs some luck, but you also have to earn it.