We catch up with Marcel Ritzmaier, as the Austrian midfield man discusses life in Austria at the moment, the likelihood of football restarting and his belief that if the Reds return to action, survival is more than achievable.
As the UK moves towards the end of the seventh week of lockdown, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect all of our daily lives.
For Austrian midfielder Marcel Ritzmaier, there have been lights at the end of the tunnel in his homeland.
The 27-year-old spent his birthday stuck at home last month, but the likely imminent return of football in Austria and the reopening of shops and such has given him a boost.
Whilst things are far from normal, ‘Ritzy’ can see signs of positive change on the horizon.
“It’s strange times!” He told us.
“But I’m at home in Austria with my girlfriend. It’s really nice weather here at the moment, and we are allowed to go outside, and the shops opened back up at the beginning of this week, so it’s getting better and better here.
“In football terms, I think the Austrian Bundesliga is hoping to follow the German Bundesliga and start up again very soon. I think they’re going to see how Germany goes and look to restart at the end of May, so this is more positive news.”
Despite myriad rumours circulating about the return of football on UK soil, there is yet to be any further clarity for Barnsley FC and its competitors.
There are however, suggestions that if the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announces easing of the lockdown in the near future, that football in England could well be restarted, albeit behind closed doors in its initial phase.
Ritzmaier keeps on top of the evolving situation in the UK, as he explains.
“I read the news all the time and of course I’m in touch with the rest of the players and all of the staff so we are all kept up to date. I think on Sunday in England there is a big meeting and the government will make new decisions, and then hopefully we get good news about football.
“I am looking forward to getting back and to be back out there on the pitch.”
Without the coaching staff, his teammates and the vast equipment available at the training ground, Marcel - like his teammates - has had to be clever in terms of keeping himself in shape over the last couple of months.
But he tells us he’s in a good place and making the best of a tough situation.
He stated: “I’m feeling good, I’m feeling fit.
“It’s not an ideal situation, it’s not the same training that we are used to.
“But we are professionals and you have to make the best of these situations, so that we are in a good shape upon our return to Oakwell.”
Unlike Austria, Germany and potentially England, a number of other European leagues have decided to end the current 2019/20 campaigns.
A former player with PSV Eindhoven, Ritzmaier refers to the Eridvisie in Holland, where he admits that losing a season like that is difficult, but that each country must make its own choices and exit strategies following an unprecedented health crisis.
“It’s tough for them.” Marcel explained.
“I’m in touch with a few players in the Netherlands and it’s a tough one. But at least they have clarity. They know what is happening, which is helpful.
“The focus is purely on the health of those countries, and everything else is secondary.”
The former Wolfsberger man, signed in January by countryman and Head Coach, Gerhard Struber feels he’s ready to return to Barnsley as soon as the call comes.
He’s also convinced the team has enough in them to fight their way to survival with 27 points still up for grabs.
“I’m ready! It has been six or seven weeks here, at home and if we are told the news about returning then I am ready to fly home tomorrow.
“It’s possible that things move very quickly now and so we have to be ready to go back to the club and start getting normality back to our lives.
“I think as a team we have a good mindset, and will relish the opportunity to prove people wrong and make a good ending to a crazy year for all of us.”