Stoke City v Huddersfield Town: Keep calm and carry on ... Christopher Schindler's message to Terriers

CHRISTOPHER SCHINDLER has been part of one relegation dogfight and he did not enjoy it one bit.

Determined to stay safe: Huddersfield Town coach David Wagner and Christopher Schindler.
Determined to stay safe: Huddersfield Town coach David Wagner and Christopher Schindler.

TSV 1860 Munich, the club he joined as an eight-year-old, spent the entire 2014-15 season battling against the drop from Bundesliga II.

As captain and a lifelong fan, Schindler felt the pressure more than most and he admits to suffering from sleepless nights as the pressure mounted.

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Eventually, salvation came via two goals in the final five minutes of a two-legged relegation play-off against Holstein Kiel but Schindler can still vividly remember the anxiety of what was a miserable nine months.

Hence why, ahead of a potentially season-defining trip to third-bottom Stoke City today, the 27-year-old is desperate for the Terriers to avoid being dragged into trouble in the Premier League.

“It was a very bad season,” the Town defender told The Yorkshire Post when asked about 1860’s own struggles in the German second tier. “We were always at the bottom. We started badly in the season and then got worse. It was a bad time.

“Expectations had been really high in the summer. A new manager (Ricardo Moniz) had arrived and lots of new players. Everyone was so excited about the season starting.

“The first game was a picture of how the whole season went. We were 2-0 up away (at Kaiserslautern) and also one man up.

“But we lost the game 3-2. For a new team that needed to grow, it was a very bad start. We could not grow after that, there was so much disappointment and frustration from the very start that we struggled.

“The big problem we had is we did not stay strong that year at 1860. That includes me, as captain. I was not able to stay strong, personally.

“I reached the point where the pressure got too much. Looking back now, it helped make me the player I am now. But it was difficult at the time. In life as well, not just football.

“I could not sleep well, I allowed it to make a difference to my private life.

“Another guy had started (the season) as captain but then there was a little bit of conflict. Then, I became captain after two or three games. We lost a few games and were always thinking: ‘If we win now, things will be okay’. But we did not win.

“Then, our second manager in a year was sacked. It was horrible and a lot of chaos. In chaos, the only thing you can influence is how you perform. But I did not find it easy to do that.

“It was a tough time but, of course, we came through it. And I was able to take a lot from that experience. Maybe it is something I can tell a few lads in the (Huddersfield) team about.”

Town, of course, have had a far better season to date than the one Schindler endured with 1860.

For a start, David Wagner’s side have never been lower than 16th in the table despite being written off by the pundits from the moment Schindler clinched promotion at Wembley by converting ‘that’ penalty.

Nevertheless, with many of Town’s rivals starting to pick up points to leave the lower half of the table more concertinaed at this stage of a season than at any time in the past decade, there remains a fear that Yorkshire’s sole top-flight representative could yet be dragged into trouble.

It is why so much importance is being attached to today’s game with Stoke. A home win and Town will be just a solitary point above the Potters, who sit third bottom ahead of Paul Lambert’s first game in charge.

“We have to be honest and realistic enough to admit this is a big game against Stoke,” added Schindler. “It is very important.

“Our (league) position is still good but, at some stage, we do have to get the points. If we can’t win, we have to draw. That can help us a lot and maybe secure our place.

“What has happened here this season is totally different to what we went through at 1860. Huddersfield had the great start with two wins and we are still in a good position.

“But there are lessons I can learn from that time. If we have difficult games like last Saturday (when Town lost 4-1 to West Ham), just talk about the mistakes and then keep your head up to move forward. There is always another game.

“If you worry, it gets worse because you lose self-confidence. That means you do not ask for the ball and then your team-mate is the same. We have to stay calm.”

Schindler, of course, has already proved his ability to keep his head while all around were in danger of losing theirs when he netted the decisive penalty in last May’s Championship play-off final.

“It is a long walk to the penalty spot at Wembley,” he said with a smile. “But the manager said during that week: ‘It is 12 yards to go into the Premier League, how difficult can it be to score from that distance?’

“My thinking was: ‘Be positive, you will do this and reward everyone for the massive season we have just had’. We must have the same thinking now. Stay calm.

“If we start to worry then a sort of mechanism will happen. If you don’t stay positive, there will be frustration and disappointment – and both of those things are not good for a team.

“We, as players, must make each other strong. To play consistently well, I need the players around me to help me in certain situations. You need a strong connection with the man next to you. Help him be stronger and be strong yourself.”