The Reds have not played a game for 27 days since their 2-0 home loss to Cardiff City on March 7 which left them seven points adrift of safety at the bottom of the Championship with nine games remaining. Oakwell is currently closed, like many businesses in the country, while the players have not been in training for three weeks. All football has been suspended until April 30 although many, including Struber, expect that to be extended well into the summer months.
Some clubs, such as Tottenham Hotspur and Huddersfield Town, have put non-footballing staff on ‘furlough leave’ – with the government supplying 80 per cent of their wages – while others are thought to be negotiating temporary wage reductions with their players and coaches. Head coach Struber is back in his home country of Austria but conducted a press conference via a video call yesterday. While he made clear that preventing the spread of the virus was paramount, he expressed concern about the financial impact of the lockdown on Barnsley as well as football in general and other businesses.
Asked if he would be willing to take a temporary reduction in his salary, Struber told the Chronicle: “Yeah. I think this is a special topic for the next time. But, if we don’t play a game for the next months, it is clear that we must speak together about what we can do to keep our club safe in the future. Every player and member of staff has the responsibility to help the club. This is a duty for me and everyone in the whole club to make sure the club has a future.”
The EFL and Premier League are understood to be discussing with the FA the possibility of playing games behind closed doors when it is safe to do so, with fans watching the games on television at home. When the idea of behind-closed-doors matches was first mentioned last month, Struber was against it but – since the crisis has worsened – he is now in favour of playing fixtures with no fans once it is safe to do so.
Struber said: “I hope, in the next days, we get a clear plan from the EFL about when the Championship will restart. Then we know what we need to do and how the players can prepare. The most important thing is safety and health. When the situation is clear, it is very important that we play so that the clubs are still alive in the next time. I think we will play without supporters in the next few months. In this new life with social distancing, it is normal that we play behind closed doors. This is not easy, it is a completely new situation for me and for everyone. But it is necessary for the clubs, they need money. When they don’t play, it is the worst case for many clubs. We feel that many people would watch our games online or on television.”
Asked to send a message to the Reds supporters, Struber said: “I wish every Barnsley fan a happy Easter and I wish every Barnsley supporter a good feeling and a good view of the future. Everything, I think, will go in a good direction eventually. It is not easy right now but we are clear on the advice from the government and NHS. You can do small things to help the crisis go behind us. That is all we can do. We hope we have a big comeback in football soon and the Barnsley fans can watch our games on TV. I hope in the next few weeks we see the light in the end of the tunnel but right now we stay at home.”
Struber and many of Barnsley’s overseas players – roughly half the first team squad – have returned to their home countries during the lockdown. Depending on what the rules are when they return to the UK, they may have to go into a quarantine period of two weeks before they can go back to Oakwell. He said: “It’s very strict in Austria. “We need masks when we go shopping for food, we can only go out for medication or food. “Many companies are closed and I think there could be a big problem economically after the health crisis.”
He added: “I feel well. “The good thing is I have a lot of time to spend with my family and for my hobby to work in the garden and to work in my forest. But I miss football and my players and my staff. We stay in contact over WhatsApp and phone and video conference call. We talk about our last games, from a bigger distance. “I analyse and evaluate them and we speak about what is best for our players. “All the players have an individual plan for training. They will have good conditioning when they come back with a good basic fitness – then we will do more high intensity work.”