Michael Sollbauer says he is ‘not a magician’ but believes he can thrive on the pressure of being the experienced centre-back brought in to make the difference in Barnsley’s relegation battle.

The 29-year-old Austrian joined on Friday last week for an undisclosed fee on a contract until 2022 from Wolsberger where he played under Reds boss Gerhard Struber. Sollbauer is the oldest player at Oakwell and the Reds’ oldest signing since Matt Mills, another veteran centre-back, arrived at the same point in their last relegation battle two years ago. 

Asked if he feels pressure to provide experience and quality to a struggling team, he told the Chronicle: “If you play professional sport, there is always pressure on your performances.  “If you want to go to a higher level, like I do by going from Austria to England, there is always more pressure than at home. But for me it was the right moment to go out of my comfort zone, like Gerhard likes to say. 

“I could stay in Austria for four, five or six years more and I know I will be a really good defender in that league. But I heard about the challenge of Barnsley and I wanted to come here. I know it will not be easy and I will not be a magician for the team but I believe in myself, the team and Gerhard. It’s good to have this pressure to increase your level. If you don’t, you stay still. In a few months I turn 30, but I can still increase my level and I will bring everything I can to the team.”

Struber says Sollbauer’s leadership qualities will help the Reds. The defender said: “I am 29 which is very experienced in this team. I have this leadership in me. I was captain of my former team for seven years from when I was 22 or 23. In my position, captain or not, you have to lead the team. When the gaffer told me about the situation, I told him it would be right for me to lead some talented boys in a situation like this because I have been in several relegation fights and we have been successful.”

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Sollbauer – whose wife and baby son are due to join him in Barnsley soon – made his debut the day after signing in the 4-2 FA Cup loss at Portsmouth before training with his new club-mates this week.

“It was the busiest week I have ever had. I travelled to a training camp in Turkey with my former team because it was not clear if it would go through with Barnsley. Then I came here. But it was a positive stress and I like that I have this stress. I have settled in and I am happy here. It was not easy to calm down after the Portsmouth game but now I have. “It wasn’t the best experience and a really disappointing result. I was not satisfied with my game personally. 

“But it is normal when you play after one training. It’s much more high-intensity and faster and more direct than in Austria. The result was disappointing but, on Sunday, I got calls from my family and I told them the atmosphere was like no league game in Austria, apart from maybe Rapid Wien (Rapid Vienna). That is why footballers love to play in England. For me, it was a new experience and I am looking forward to more.”

Sollbauer has played almost 250 games in the Austrian top flight as well as in the Europa League this season against the likes of AS Roma and Borussia Monchengladbach. He said: “I worked with Gerhard for six months in Austria. It was really great for us as a team, he increased every player and gave us a lot of solutions. He is a really, really good manager. He is the right one to work with the young players here. Max (Senft, coach) was also a really big part of our game, he showed us everything about the opponent so we were prepared for every game. He does the same in Barnsley.

“Being in the Europa League was a great experience as a player and also as a small club in Austria. We did a great season last season to get there. We didn’t want to be tourists in the group stage. Gerhard told us in every game we have a chance, like at Borussia Monchengladbach who were top of the league in Germany. He told us to believe in our style and we won 4-0. It was also a very good experience to play against Roma twice. Gerhard made us always believe and fight in every game.”