Speaking to the local and national press for the first time since joining Barnsley, Markus Schopp says he didn’t have to think twice before making the switch to South Yorkshire.
Attracted by the prospect of working with an energetic and talented squad that finished fifth in the Sky Bet Championship last season, our new Head Coach believes anything can happen and has challenged his team to continue their hard work from the past 12 months.
“I was already in pre-season with my previous team, and I got the call,” began Schopp. “To be honest, it’s the English Championship; it’s something special and I didn’t have to think a lot about it.
“Last season was awesome. I don’t think anyone at the beginning of the season thought that something like that could happen, but we are in the business where anything can happen. It’s all about hard work and that’s something you saw at my previous team [TSV Hartberg]; we worked a lot and it’s the basic. It’s up to us to put some extras to the style we want to play.”
The Reds have drawn plenty of plaudits for their high-octane and pressing approach over the last few years, with a desire to outwork and outrun the opposition a key ingredient of our philosophy.
Schopp is keen to keep that identity and is using pre-season to figure out how best to utilise his squad to the maximum effect for the upcoming campaign.
“First of all, I want to have a competitive team that is very ambitious, aggressive and intense and also a team that knows how to handle the ball – that’s the combination I want to see from my team,” continued the Austrian.
“I want to see a team that does everything to win each game and if we continue to do this, we can see something similar to last season happen. It’s all about the attitude and how we want to be on the field.”
This is Schopp’s first experience of English football, having previously sampled Germany and Italy as a player, while, of course, playing and coaching in his native Austria.
However, it is a challenge that he is looking forward to and, despite the obvious quality within the league, is eager to see this Barnsley side improve – both collectively and individually, too.
“I always saw how many games you have to play and this is a tough Championship,” asserted Schopp. “We did it well last season, but we have to do it better this season, and that’s something that me and my staff have to work out how to do it best for the team.
“There are a lot of quality players with a lot of intensity, but even with this kind of style they find solutions. The first two weeks was very impressive because the team is very focussed and hungry.
“It’s the most important thing for me as a coach, to have a team that want to get to the next level and, as a coach, I’m here to help them.
“The aim is always to get better and it’s what makes us hungry. As a coach, it’s my work to give this to the players that they don’t feel they’ve reached their peak and they can do better. It’s up to us to give them solutions and to find better solutions. That’s the process we’re in right now and it’s very interesting.”
After a season without supporters, with the exception of our play-off semi-final clash with Swansea City, the prospect of fans back in stadia adds even more excitement for Schopp to be out in the dugout.
The 47-year-old is hopeful that the Oakwell faithful will have a similar energy in the stands to that of his team on the pitch.
“Watching some games with the crowd, it is a different game,” said Schopp. “To be part of the process here in England is something special and I’m looking forward to having all the stadiums full, to get this special atmosphere and feeling again.
“I’m looking forward to being in this storm of energy that comes from the stands, to play every couple of days and be in different challenges with the team.
“It’s something that I think will be the main part to bring this intensity on the pitch for the players, especially when we’re in possession. It’s more about how you can bring this intensity every two or three days on the field and it’s up to us to find a solution that fits us.”